Free School for Art Theory and Practice

Potentialities Beyond Political Sadness: Case Chto Delat?/What Is to Be Done? In a Time of Reaction. Seminar with Chto delat? / What is to be done?


Art and Activism. Dimitry Vilensky and David Riff (Two Members of Chto Delat?/What Is to Be Done?) Interviewed by Szacsva y Pál

November 2–4, 2007 ; Open Society Archive, Budapest

In our block seminar, we would like to discuss how global processes of political, economic, and social normalization play out in contemporary Russia, particularly how these processes affect the institutional framing of contemporary art, its practical production, and its venues for political engagement in a post-socialist situation, as a defunct centrally planned art system and a “hothouse” for non-conformism are replaced by a late-capitalist nexus of local and global institutions and events, increasingly geared toward a new hyper-bourgeoisie and emerging middle-class audiences.

After the radical privatization/particularization of political and aesthetic practices in the early to mid 1990s, the onset of normalization processes in the late 1990s/early 2000s led to some more universalizing repoliticization of contemporary art and its theoretical discourse. Chto Delat sees itself as a part of this. But as neo-conservatism rode in on neo-liberalism’s back in the second half of the first decade of the new millennium, we have seen the onset of increasing autonomization, as new private-corporate strategies establish themselves, and artists rephrase their older, more radical practices for a “war of position” or abandon them altogether.

What are the aesthetic parameters of this situation? How do they write themselves into urban space, institutional frameworks, and “global” culture? Which potentialities can one explore? Which alternatives should one choose if one wants to continue thinking the political in art? Can one still explore and capture the uneven terrain of post-socialist cities, finding or positing spaces for contemporary art? Which modes of aesthetic and political self-education are available? What can one actualize or preserve of socialist culture, which is rapidly disappearing? What is to be done?