On the 100th anniversary of the first Russian Revolution, collective Chto Delat? (What is to Be Done?) organized activists in protest of contemporary labor inequities on the square at Narva Gate in St. Petersburg, the site of the original uprising in 1905. In this contemporary staging, Chto Delat? invited low-income workers who normally wear sandwich boards advertising local businesses to participate by wearing new boards bearing language from Bertolt Brecht’s poem, “In Praise of Dialectics” as well as a series of questions. “Are you being exploited? Are you exploiting somebody? Is exploitation inevitable?” The first Russian Revolution was a violent and failed attempt to dislodge government; Angry Sandwich People aimed to reflect on the political implications of this failure.
Chto Delat?, which takes its name from Vladimir Lenin’s historic political pamphlet, consists of poets, artists, philosophers, singers, set designers, critics, and writers who appropriate the iconography and terminology of Communism in their work. They work as “art soviets,” inspired by the councils formed in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Relying heavily on political and artistic theory, Chto Delat? explores the idea of “participatory democracy,” and the history of the word “solidarity,” through exhibitions, artworks, and projects in public space.