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Yours, KOW

Canary Archive

, Chto Delat

Opening  ›  Jul 15, 6:00 PM

Jul 15 – Aug 20, 2022

DeutschEnglish

For years, Chto Delat has been considered one of the most important critical voices in contemporary art from Russia. Looking back today, Chto Delat have long had the gradual escalation of the Russian catastrophe in mind like prescient chroniclers. There was the political corruption after Perestroika (2008), the repressive oligarchic redivision of the country (2010), and then in 2014 the beginning of the war against Ukraine, now fully inflamed, which Chto Delat commented on the occasion of her exhibition at KOW 2015: "We have lost. We are excluded in this society where 80% of the population approves of war."

Chto Delat gilt seit Jahren als eine der wichtigsten kritischen Stimmen der zeitgenössischen Kunst aus Russland. Schaut man heute zurück, haben Chto Delat die allmähliche Eskalation der russischen Katastrophe lange schon wie vorausschauende Chronisten im Blick gehabt. Da war die politische Korruption nach Perestroika (2008), die repressive oligarchische Neuaufteilung des Landes (2010), und dann 2014 der Beginn des Krieges gegen die Ukraine, der jetzt voll entflammt ist, und den Chto Delat anlässlich ihrer Ausstellung bei KOW 2015 so kommentierte: „Wir haben verloren. Wir sind Ausgeschlossene in dieser Gesellschaft, in der 80% der Bevölkerung den Krieg gutheißen.“

It is a view of artists and intellectuals from the dissident interior of Russian society that comes to this statement. Activism, anti-fascism, criticism of the Putin regime and its neo-imperialism, all that had constituted the themes and projects of the Chto Delat collective since its foundation in 2003, had their backs to the wall as of 2014. For art, one's own actions, seemed to have finally become powerless, worse: speechless. The 2015 exhibition at KOW bore witness to this. In 2017, the collective then showed a film at the gallery about the (im)possibility of exile.

And now? In February 2022, Chto Delat followed up on the above experience by producing the video work Testimonies of a Canary, which (virtually) reunited all nine founding members of the group. In the days immediately before and after the beginning of the Russian war of invasion against Ukraine, they spoke - disconnected, each isolated, lying alone in their private interiors - about themselves, about their (night)dreams, about the catastrophe, about the war, about poetry, about how one got to where one is now. Between the scenes, the image of an elevator returns, descending further and further, into the shaft, into the pit.

It is a historical document, created around February 24, 2022. The collective includes significant contemporary Russian thinkers: philosophers Artemy Magun, Alexei Penzin and Oxana Timofeeva, choreographer Nina Gasteva, artists Olga Egorova (Tsaplya), Nikolay Oleynikov and Dmitry Vilensky. Their voices, thoughts and gestures are touching. They move on the edge of a livable existence. They suspect – or already know – that in their country it will become even darker, blacker, than it already was.

The video work is located in a metal cage, which the visitors enter. Inside, a second monitor shows canaries in a cage, which were famously used in mining because they died earlier than humans when oxygen was scarce, indicating that it was urgent to turn back upwards before the air ran out completely. Life underground. Thinking and working underground, dreaming underground. How much longer? How much further down?

It is important to hear such voices and experiences from Russia today. Chto Delat's Dmitry Vilensky says in the Zoom interview that today about 20% of the Russian population openly opposes the war. "That may be little, but that's still 30 million people. We are not alone, even if we cannot be united." To KOW it would seem wrong and strange to question the long-planned exhibition with Chto Delat. On the contrary, the gallery finds it highly problematic to take Russian culture into collective custody and "cancel" it, as is often the case at present, thus excluding precisely those who are already marginalized in the Russian regime because they are against it instead of for it, and who are running out of air.

Es ist ein Blick von Künstlern und Intellektuellen aus dem dissidenten Inneren der russischen Gesellschaft, der zu dieser Aussage kommt. Aktivismus, Antifaschismus, Kritik am Putin-Regime und seinem Neoimperialismus, all das, was die Themen und Projekte des Chto Delat-Kollektivs seit dessen Gründung 2003 ausgemacht hatte, stand ab 2014 mit dem Rücken zur Wand. Denn die Kunst, das eigene Handeln, schienen endgültig machtlos geworden zu sein, schlimmer: sprachlos. Die 2015er Ausstellung bei KOW legte davon Zeugnis ab. 2017 zeigte das Kollektiv dann in der Galerie einen Film über die (Un)möglichkeit des Exils.

Und nun? Im Februar 2022 schlossen Chto Delat an obige Erfahrungen an und produzierten die Videoarbeit Zeugnisse eines Kanarienvogels, die alle neun Gründungsmitglieder der Gruppe (virtuell) erneut zusammenbrachte. In den Tagen unmittelbar vor und nach Beginn des russischen Invasionskrieges gegen die Ukraine sprachen sie – unverbunden, jeder vereinzelt, alleine liegend im privaten Interieur – über sich, über ihre (Alp)träume, über die Katastrophe, über den Krieg, über Poesie, darüber, wie man dahin kam wo man nun ist. Zwischen den Szenen kehrt das Bild eines Fahrstuhls wieder, der immer weiter abwärtsfährt, hinein in den Schacht, in die Grube.

Es ist ein historisches Dokument, entstanden rund um den 24. Februar 2022. Dem Kollektiv gehören wichtige russische Denker*innen der Gegenwart an: die Philosophen Artemy Magun, Alexei Penzin und Oxana Timofeeva, die Choreografin Nina Gasteva, die Künstler Olga Egorova (Tsaplya), Nikolay Oleynikov und Dmitry Vilensky. Ihre Stimmen, Gedanken und Gesten berühren. Sie bewegen sich am Rande einer lebbaren Existenz. Sie ahnen oder wissen bereits, dass es in ihrem Land noch dunkler, schwärzer werden wird, als es ohnehin schon war.

Die Videoarbeit befindet sich in einem Metallkäfig, den die Besucher*innen betreten. Darin zeigt ein zweiter Monitor Kanarienvögel in einem Käfig, die bekanntlich im Bergbau eingesetzt wurden, da sie bei Sauerstoffmangel früher starben als die Menschen und damit anzeigten, dass man dringend umkehren sollte nach oben, ehe die Luft ganz ausgeht. Leben untertage. Denken und arbeiten untertage, träumen untertage. Wie lange noch? Wie tief noch hinunter?

Es ist wichtig, heute solche Stimmen und Erfahrungen aus Russland zu hören. Chto Delat’s Dmitry Vilensky meint im Zoom-Gespräch, dass sich heute ca. 20% der russischen Bevölkerung offen gegen den Krieg aussprechen. „Das mag wenig sein, aber das sind immer noch 30 Millionen Menschen. Wir sind nicht alleine, auch wenn wir nicht verbunden sein können“. KOW erschiene es falsch und seltsam, die schon lange geplante Ausstellung mit Chto Delat in Frage zu stellen. Die Galerie findet es im Gegenteil hochproblematisch, die russische Kultur in Kollektivhaft zu nehmen und zu „canceln“, wie es derzeit häufig der Fall ist, und damit gerade auch diejenigen auszugrenzen, die bereits im russischen Regime ausgegrenzt werden, weil sie dagegen sind anstatt dafür, und denen die Luft knapp wird.

text: Alexander Koch
photos: Ladislav Zajac
developed in coorporation with HKW Berlin as part of the Whole Life Project

Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, exhibition view KOW, photo: Ladislav Zajac
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill
Chto Delat, Canary Archive, 2022, 4-channel video installation, construction fence, wood, newspaper, format variable, videostill

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