Chto Delat is an informal group of artists, researchers and writers that has been working and living together for the last nineteen years. We emerged from a protest action in St. Petersburg in 2003. Since then, we have been experiencing various difficult situations but managed to stay together and do collective projects of artistic, academic, and public nature.
Our collective subjectivity has been shaped by the values of the New Left, the anti-globalization and Zapatista movements, the social forums and many other inspiring encounters. And we did our best to contribute to this emerging internationalist movement in the spheres of culture and social practices. Despite failures and defeats these were the years of inspiration, of the optimism of consciousness and will. We were able to engage in important events and establish close relationships with many groups, institutions, researchers and artists. At the same time, our position in Russia, despite the growing number of like-minded comrades, has remained marginal, from the very beginning we had to resist both the rising tide of repression and the rejection of our practices by the apolitical or neoliberal majority in the artistic and academic communities in Russia. Most of the projects that we managed to realize in Russia could only take place as autonomous, self-organized initiatives with minimal local support — we took all needed y resources from international cooperation.
From the moment of the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine and the start of a monstrous, unjustified war, we physically feel the collapse of language, theories, hopes, desires, connections, even of self-understanding, in this terrible world of catastrophes and deaths. The war started by Russia pushed us back to the archaic situation of the 19th century, and the modernity fell into akind of hellish abyss. What is the sense of all the words that we said, of all the films that we shot? What does it mean to be true to the left ideas today? What does it mean to be internationalists? What does it mean to continue to create art and thought, here and now?
It happened that several members of the “Chto Delat” collective no longer live in Russia, and with the outbreak of war, several more people were forced to leave, which poses a difficult question for our group: who are we in the new geographical composition of bodies? Where are we now? Where do we speak from and to whom do we address in a new situation in Russia within political terror, total police control and destruction of the public sphere in?
Despite this partial paralysis, now, in the face of the escalation of nationalist and fascist tendencies, we continue to adhere to the main principle from which our collective arose. We say: we are internationalists, we proceed from the internationalist agenda. War is an excess of nationalistic and colonial politics. We draw from feminism and the other forms of gender criticism: this current war is a patriarchal form of the escalation of violence. We are communists: war is the result of the imperialist policy of the capitalist states. It is on the basis of these premises that we oppose Russian intervention in Ukraine as colonial, patriarchal and imperialist aggression.
And in this situation, the most terrible and desperate for the entire existence of our collective, the main sense of our work is to strive to develop the tradition of emancipatory culture, thought and art. We still believe that this is important, not only for us, but for societies that will need to rebuild after the war and that will have to fight together with other terrible impending disasters. We are proud that our predecessors who lived in Russia and the Soviet Union (and had a variety of ethnic backgrounds), became the authors of statements that determined the development of radical emancipatory art and thought, that their ideas and works enriched culture and became into international commons.
We hope that we will be able, despite everything, to maintain the focus of our work and life on the support of emancipatory, decolonial, internationalist practices in Russia , and wherever we may be in the near, and incomprehensible distant, future. And, of course, we will continue to participate in the daily work of mutual assistance and care — first of all, to the victims of war and political repressions and daily activist struggles.
From now on, we are replacing the titleof our FB community and channel on the SYG.MA with Chto Delat International. We want to focus on understanding the role of art and thought at the situation of permanent state of emergency. We are also working on creating of new organizational structures — like the current program of the Canary’s Art Commune and The Emergency School that build on the experiences of our School of Engaged Art and ROSA House of Culture. We are open to new interactions, relations and responsibilities that will help us stand together.