Tsaplya Olga Egorova and Dmitry Vilensky (from the Chto Delat collective)
From the School to the Commune. Radical Pedagogy at the Moment of War
This presentation will address the ongoing experience of The School of Engaged Art (Saint Petersburg), a project of the Chto Delat collective. The School of Engaged art was established in the fall of 2013 – 6 months before the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of the war in the east of Ukraine, and ten years after the foundation of Chto Delat collective in 2003. It is a radical art education initiative with the goal of establishing a community of creative workers who use the language of art as a tool for transformation of society based on the values of justice and equality. The School was established to operate inside a Russian social and political situation where basic democratic freedoms are under threat, in conditions that offer no support whatsoever for critical culture, and in a society where there are almost no academic programmes in contemporary art. However, we did not expect that the situation after the inauguration of our school would escalate quickly to the situation of catastrophe – two years of pandemic, and then the outbreak of a full scale war create unprecedented challenges. What kind of art practice can we teach when the world falls apart?
The collective Chto Delat (What is to be done?) was founded in early 2003 in Saint Petersburg by a workgroup of artists, critics, philosophers, and writers with the goal of merging political theory, art, and activism. Their artistic activity is realized across a range of media—from video and theater plays, to radio programmes and murals—it includes art projects, seminars and public campaigns. The works of the collective are characterized by the use of alienation effect, surreal scenery, typicality rooted in case studies of concrete social and political struggles. In 2013, Chto Delat initiated an educational platform—School of Engaged Art in Petersburg– and they also run a space called Rosa’s House of Culture. From its inception, the collective has published regularly an English-Russian newspaper focused on the politicisation of Russian cultural situation, in dialogue with the international context. The collective’s work has been exhibited worldwide (in Athens, New Delhi, Shanghai, Mexico, Berlin, New York, Ljubljana, and London amongst others).
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Still from the Chto Delat film "The Excluded. At the moment of danger"