Chto Delat’s “When the roots start to move and get lost”
              Ben Eastham
              A screen at the entrance to Chto Delat’s first solo exhibition in Athens shows four members of the Russian collective on a Zoom call. Each of them sways, swoons, or sighs along to Maya Kristalinskaya’s interpretation of the 1965 torch song Nezhnost’ [Tenderness] as overlaid script tells the group’s history since its formation in 2003. A wall text states that the ballad was a favorite of Yuri Gagarin, the first man ever to be estranged from the planet, and that this performance was recorded during lockdown. As Kalinskaya mourns an earth left empty by separation from her lover, this short portrait of divided friends introduces the themes of the show: how to resist isolation, what it means to belong, and how to be together. Chto Delat’s interest in these issues predates the pandemic and political crises which have exacerbated them. Filmed in 2011, and exhibited here in a basement screening room, Museum Songspiel: The Netherlands 20xx presents a hypothetical scenario in a near-future that may, a decade ago, have seemed dystopian: a group of asylum seekers have escaped deportation and taken refuge in a modern art museum. A resident artist has the bright idea of dressing them up as performers in …
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