Free Pussy Riot!

© Mustikka

In September 2008 a little-known group by the name of Voina descended on an unsuspecting hypermarket on the outskirts of Moscow, blocking off one of the massive aisles with shopping carts and staging a lynching of three hired gasterbaiters (a derogatory but prevalent term for migrant workers from Central Asia). These workers-cum-performers had agreed to be paid for their services, and the happening might have effectively addressed the city’s callous labor system had it not been for the added distraction of two hot-panted “homosexual” comrades-in-nooses, who spent most of the video documentation prancing and giggling into their feather boas and angel wings while the workers looked on bewildered. It was supposed to speak to gay rights, but it felt like a fraternity stunt.

In 2012, tables turned, and the women of Voina took center stage with their offshoot group Pussy Riot, whose catchy name has arguably garnered them more fans than their purposefully abrasive music has. The “band” had been performing guerrilla-style “concerts” since last November, screaming songs from store windows, the rooftops of a public tram, and a detention center, and even on Red Square, where they spouted calls for Tahrir in Moscow (“Egyptian air is good for the lungs”). They wore balaclavas to cancel out the distraction of female beauty—and perhaps rightfully so.

Once unmasked, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova’s pouty prettiness—even after five months in prison she looks like she just patted off her face in a Noxzema commercial—earned her an international following, as well as an invite to pose (unpaid) on the cover of Ukrainian Playboy.

Pussy Riot’s performances made the social networking rounds as campy videos, but the general public—then preoccupied with pre-election protests—barely took note. That is, until lady-Voina targeted the country’s unspoken second-in-command. Not Prime Minister Medvedev (he already had his orgy), but the Russian Orthodox Church and its Patriarch Kirill Gundyaev, a former KGB colleague of Putin’s who was promoted to the church’s head when he assumed leadership, and who promptly mobilized God and his congregation in support of Putin. Under this regime, the church has increasingly intervened in state matters, forming a kind of Second Kremlin in the Church of Christ the Saviour, the seat of Russian Orthodoxy, or—as the Moscow court would continuously refer to it—“God’s personal address.”
On February 21, 2012, five masked girls sang about exactly this corruption, pleading with the Virgin Mary to drive Putin and his cronies from her church. The girls entered the cathedral as any other members of the flock, but once inside, they stripped off their coats and donned colorful masks, in flagrant disregard of the cathedral’s code of conduct. The invaders then broke into the altar (an area reserved for the priests and thus expressly forbidden to women), where they performed some aerobics-y maneuvers for all of thirty seconds before being chased out by security. When a retooled video of the events appeared on YouTube (accompanied by the song “Virgin Mary, Drive Putin Out,” and edited so as to seem much longer), the state was forced to act. In early March, three of the performers— Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Ekaterina Samutsevich—were arrested and officially charged with felony hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, an offense carrying a sentence of up to seven years in prison.

© Aldo Lanzini

Mustikka is sustaining the cause. Some years ago i collaborated to the masked performance of the Italian artist and friend Aldo Lanzini. His work will be promoted as symbol of my personal sustain to Pussy Riot.
 
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One thought on “Free Pussy Riot!

  1. Pingback: Free Voina! « MUSTIKKA

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