You Don’t Have to Be Leftist to Think Like That
An Exhibition as a School
A project by Chto Delat
October 29–November 18, 2012
Curators: ТОK Creative Association of Curators
Forty years later, it has the same ring as it did then: not as a
depoliticizing slogan that abolishes a traditional way of marking
political differences, but as a simple statement of the fact that
leftist views and convictions have ceased to be a set of hackneyed
ideologemes and are, rather, something basic to humanity’s survival.
art and culture’s educational function are an essential aspect of its
production of knowledge and meaning. Unlike other artists, who insist on
art’s apolitical nature, Chto Delat has consistently upheld the idea
that cultural production is implicated in the current political struggle
and that cultural workers must constantly insist on the value of
emancipatory politics and counteract culture’s commercialization.
create spaces and situations where audience and artworks engage with
each other. In this project we want to turn the process of conceiving
and producing an exhibition into a continuous series of workshops,
seminars and round tables on art’s role in political development. We are
confident of the project’s relevance for the current Russian
conjuncture, in which the general public has shown greater interest in
issues of political education and the desire to take responsibility for
the country’s development. The project aims to equip participants with a
set of creative tools for critically analyzing, understanding,
liberating and transforming society.
the absence of a civil society, at a time when the authorities show a
flagrant disregard for both their own basic obligations and the law,
thus untying the hands of the most reactionary forces and openly
encouraging their violence?
country to come out against the authorities, join in the democratic
demands of anti-government forces, and get involved in rallies and
protest campaigns. But will anything change by endlessly chanting the
mantra “The government has got to go”?
society can and must replace it. We believe that the most acute issue
now is the development of an alternative public space for intellectual
and political resistance. Obviously, this space can be generated only by
a broad network of self-organized initiatives that require no external
hierarchical coordination, because they will be based on the specific
solidarity of cooperation.
everywhere—in everyday life, at work, in the streets, at home. If this
model of civil society is unable to achieve a critical mass of
participants, superficial transformations of power will not lead to
significant real changes. Culture and art have always played an
essential role in man’s formation. They are our principal defense from
the constant threat of barbarism. It is therefore necessary to fight for
their values and oppose all forms of clericalism, bigotry, slavery and
outright violence. The authorities understand this all too well and are
thus carrying out a directed assault on the very idea of secular,
critical and politically committed culture and education. Intellectual
and research work, seriously underestimated by the opposition, can and
should be a focus of the new mobilization as the unequal confrontation
between state and society continues. To make this happen, we need to
tackle a number of our own specific problems, which would help us impact
the situation and turn it in a direction for which we are prepared to
circumstances, we first need to articulate our mission in our own
workplace—that is, amongst people engaged in the production of culture,
education and research.
and demands for ourselves, without holding out the hope that the current
powers that be are in the least capable of carrying them out. On the
contrary, we articulate them with a clear understanding that only a
decisive change in the political situation can make it possible to begin
the ambitious program of cultural transformation without which our
society will be thrown backwards for many decades.
platform for generating cooperation and consolidation within the
fragmented and as yet apolitical milieu of cultural workers. If we do
not do this now, tomorrow it may happen that most basic foundations of
contemporary art, culture and education will not only be threatened, but
will simply disappear from the map of the places where they had a
chance to materialize.
exhibition (from October 29 to November 7) will begin with a seminar
entitled “Educational Fresco.” Seminar participants will join seminar
leader Nikolay Oleynikov in creating a monumental sculptural and graphic
work that in comic-strip form reflects on the dynamics of the political
struggle in Russian society.
seminar will be held at the same time. The seminar will build on the
experience gained by the Chto Delat theatrical studio and is based on
the tradition of Bertolt Brecht’s “learning plays.” During the
exhibition run, we will hold a series of meetings, introducing the
concept of the “teaching theater” as an essential method for shaping
political consciousness and showing the principles of writing a play by
dramatizing a single, jointly selected episode from the actual practice
of emancipatory struggle. The seminar will be lead by Tsaplya (Olga
Egorova), Dmitry Vilensky and Nina Gasteva.
workshop, led by Gluklya (Natalya Pershina), on the concept of clothing
design as a form of the subject’s emergence and its position in society.
We will also organize discussions of institutional critique by
analyzing the development of contemporary art institutions in St.
Petersburg and Russia.
extensive program of lectures, open discussions and seminars led by
well-known artists, curators, performers, philosophers and poets (see
the program schedule) who offer a real alternative to Petersburg’s
official reactionary cultural policy. Thus, the exhibition space will
function as a school where artists and audience will discuss the most
pressing issues of contemporary art and its relationship to the
development of society and the formation of the individual.