THE Russian and Ukrainian protest artists Pussy Riot and Pyotr Pavlensky are holding a performance and photography exhibition in London next month.
Pussy Riot, a feminist punk-rock group, gained notoriety in 2012 when five of its variable membership staged a protest in the Orthodox Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, in Moscow. Three of the group — Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina — were arrested, and were found guilty by a Moscow court of “hooliganism driven by religious hatred”, and were imprisoned for two years.
The Bishop of Leeds, then Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who worked for GCHQ as a Russian linguist before his ordination, said of the case: “Patriarchate shows signs of being a little too close to Putin and his regime.”
The exhibition, “Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism”, presented at the Saatchi Gallery by the Tsukanov Family Foundation, will explore challenges to freedom of expression in the face of political ideology and religion. It will suggest similarities between the Russian Revolution a century ago and the censorship of artists in modern Russia.
The exhibition will open on 16 November with a stage performance from Ms Alyokhina. A separate performance from Ms Tolokonnikova and the theatre group Les Enfant Terribles, Inside Pussy Riot — a re-enactment of the cathedral protest, which was a punk-style song that called on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out” — will run alongside the exhibition.
Photos of the Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky, who nailed his scrotum to Red Square in Moscow, and sewed his mouth shut in protest at the arrest and imprisonment of Pussy Riot, will also feature, alongside work by other performance artists, including Oleg Kulik and the Blue Noses art group.
Mr Pavlensky said via a translator on Wednesday: “It is very important to show that power cannot control art. All the material I use in the exhibition is made by hand, and it is my hands that are free.
“When I was in prison, Pussy Riot supported me, and I am very grateful for that. The actions they take are good for Russia. This exhibition showcases those actions.”
“Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism” runs from 16 November to 24 December at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3. “Inside Pussy Riot” will run alongside from 14 November to 24 December. www.insidepussyriot.com