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Chto Delat: The Soviet Houses of Cultures


The research by the group Chto Delat (f. 2003, St. Petersburg) continued their long-term inquiry into the structure, legacy and current functioning of cultural spaces in Russia and the former Soviet republics and spanned the period from the early twentieth century to the present day.

At the centre of the group’s investigation is the huge role houses of culture played in developing several generations of independent artists despite their pro-party ideology during the Soviet years and their focus on commercial activities in the past few decades.

Faithful to their belief in the power of collective work, Chto Delat supported fourteen new projects by young artists, many of them graduates of the group’s School of Engaged Art in St Petersburg. Each artist selected and researched a house of culture in different towns and cities across the former Soviet Union, including St. Petersburg, Arkhangelsk, Korkino (Chelyabinsk Region), Kaliningrad, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Kara-Zhygach (formerly Ala-Too, near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan), Togliatti, Shelota (Vologda Region), Jõhvi (Estonia), Minsk (Belarus), and Gorodnya (Tver Region). The choice of the house of culture was informed by each artist’s personal interests and experience. Their stories and discoveries showed how the remains of Soviet infrastructure influenced the development of the post-Soviet intelligentsia.

Works by Chto Delat and invited researchers shared a common focus on the practical aspects of the houses’ functioning, reflecting the group’s belief that the houses’ strategies and their cultural potential could be revisited and adapted for contemporary self-organised initiatives.

In the exhibition Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II Chto Delat presented the “passports” of the studied houses of culture, videos documenting the research, and three successful self-organised initiatives created around Houses of Culture in Moscow (DK Delai kulturu), Novosibirsk (Maksima Grokogo 17A Commune) and St Petersburg (DK Rozy).

Deadline: 2016-2017

Researcher: Chto Delat


Chto Delat (founded 2003) is an art group based in St. Petersburg and founded by Olga Egorova and Dmitry Vilensky. It was subsequently joined by Oxana Timofeeva, Nikolay Oleynikov, Aleksey Penzin, Alexander Skidan, and others. In 2013, Chto Delat created the School for Engaged Art, St. Petersburg. Solo exhibitions include: Time Capsule: An Artistic Report on Catastrophes and Utopia, Secession, Vienna and KOW, Berlin (2014–2015); Chto Delat? in Baden-Baden, Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden (2011–2012); Perestroika: Twenty Years After, 2011–1991, Kunstverein, Cologne (2011); and The Urgent Need to Struggle, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2010). Group exhibitions include: Really Useful Knowledge, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid (2014); Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making 1789–2013, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool (2013); FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2013); and Ostalgia, New Museum, New York (2011).

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