In Russia, political activists have a hard time getting their message across. Posters, petitions, and protests have very little effect. When protests occur in places other than the capital, the Moscow media outlets don’t pay any attention. So artists have been thinking about other types of performances that could get attention, like Pavlensky, or our ‘Monstrations’.
Monstration on May 1, 2013, in Novossibirsk. The placard says: “Astérix, where are you?”. Photo by Anton Unitsyn.
If Pavlenksy had just written something on his blog, only his friends would have read it, and his message would not have been heard. But now, with this action, he’s managed to be in the news for more than just a day, it’s incredible!
“Most artists are afraid that the authorities will react unpredictably”
Russian modern art is not politicised. It is mostly an industry, a way of making money. There isn’t any space for political action or speech. I think that most artists are afraid that the authorities will react unpredictably. We don’t know exactly what we’re risking, it’s like a lottery. Pussy Riot did several performances in Red Square without punishment, but then the last time, they were sentenced to prison. Also, this type of action is not in the least lucrative. There is no market for this. It’s very thankless.
However, Russia really needs protest art, because there are many contradictions and social problems in this country. And ever since the Russian protest movement received global attention in 2011, there is genuine interest in those artists that produce commentary on social issues. They generate attention and create a dialogue.