National pride can be a prickly subject for most artists – those who tackle it sometimes pay a high price. In Ukraine, a young artist was jailed for a performance that involved frying eggs over an eternal flame honouring fallen soldiers and commemorating the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.
A video of the event shows Sin'kova apparently explaining her performance to nearby police officers, who do nothing to stop her.
Nevertheless, more than three months after the performance, Anna Sin'kova was arrested and charged with "desecrating a grave". She faces up to five years in prison. On April 11, the Kiev court of appeals refused to release her on bail.
The case comes as another controversy regarding art and sacred symbols unfolds in France: a work by American photographer Andres Serrano, featuring a urine-soaked Christ on a cross, was destroyed by irate museum visitors on April 16. Religion, apparently, is another prickly subject in contemporary art.
Post written with freelance journalist Ostap Karmodi.
"It's blasphemous to make such 'performances' on a bed of honour"
Lena Hades, 51, is a Russian artist who is no stranger to controversy. She came under investigation in June 2010 on allegations that her paintings “ignited national hatred”, and supported Russian art group Voina when it ran into trouble for painting a giant penis on a Saint-Petersburg bridge. Nevertheless, she is very critical of Anna Sin'kova’s performance in Kiev.
The limits of what is acceptable are set by the artists themselves. Not every artist is ready to copulate in public – like members of the art group Voina did in the Moscow Biological Museum, or to fry sausages and eggs on an eternal flame – like Anna Sin'kova.
Anna behaved like a prodigal son, both insolent and stupid. It's blasphemous to make such “performances” on a bed of honour, the final resting place of people whose lives were tragically and prematurely ended by war. I think that such attitude towards the memory of our ancestors is a sign of a very bad upbringing. Probably the girl hasn't been told that you can't dance on our fathers' graves.
Sometimes I think that a Third World War is just around the corner. When the last witnesses of WWII pass away and no memory remains of its past horrors, we will forget lessons learned and start all over again.”
On December 16, 2010 Ukrainian artist Anna Sin'kova filmed herself cooking fried eggs and sausages over the eternal flame in the Kiev Park of Glory. Video posted on YouTube by weekly2000.
"The eternal flame is not a grave, it’s a propaganda memorial for a totalitarian communist regime"
Anna Sin’kova, 20, is a leader of the Ukrainian art group “Brotherhood of Saint Luke”. She sent this written comment from jail through her lawyer after FRANCE 24 sent a request to her group.
I do not regret my performance for a single second, even after being interrogated for four hours without my lawyer, and despite the pressure I have been subjected to while in jail. The accusations against me are absurd and ridiculous.
“The media distorted the original message behind my performance”
They say I desecrated a grave, but it’s quite the opposite. The eternal flame is not a grave, it’s a propaganda memorial for a totalitarian communist regime [the former USSR]. It is the biggest desecration of the memory of the victims of a terrible war, many of whom, including my grand-grandfather, were dedicated orthodox Christians. The cult of “The Great Victory”, invented by the Kremlin [Sin'kova believes that the Russian government uses Soviet-era wartime symbols to project national greatness], has nothing to do with the real veterans and victims of the war. That's why I made this performance. If it was a desecration, it was a desecration of a Soviet propaganda object, not soldiers' graves.
Outrage against the performance originated from the current Ukrainian authorities answering to the Kremlin [Sin'kova is critical of the current Ukrainian government, whom she sees as the Kremlin's puppet], and from state-controlled media. It was the media that distorted the original message behind my performance.
On the other hand, many Ukrainian patriots have praised my idea and are raising their voices in my defence. Meetings in my support are being organized in Kiev and other cities, leaflets are distributed and funds are collected.
“I was arrested as I exited a supermarket by men in black balaclavas”
Like a spy from a Hollywood movie, I was arrested as I exited a supermarket by men in black balaclavas. I was interrogated without my lawyer by three plainclothes policemen, who threatened me and told me I was a traitor. I have been kept in a cell with 20 other people, and was denied medical care when I came down with a very high fever.
My lawyers are preparing an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights. I hope for a favorable decision.
When I am set free I will continue to fight for this just cause. The authorities want to scare us patriots, or put us in jail. But we're not going to stand aside watching as Ukrainian sovereignty is sold to the Kremlin in return for natural gas and favours for local oligarchs.”