The Artists who Crossed the Line
An art group that stages orgies, throws cats at cashiers and has Banksy as a fan has enraged the Russian authorities
two men are part of Voina, a radical art collective
that has infuriated the Russian authorities with a series of increasingly
audacious stunts, and whose jailing has caused concern in
group first came to prominence in February 2008, two days before the carefully
choreographed elections that brought President Dmitry Medvedev
to power. About 12 activists, one of whom was a pregnant woman, entered the
Meanwhile, the group's leader and chief ideologist, the bearded Alexei Plutser-Sarno, donned a top hat and unfurled a banner that said: "Fuck for the Teddy Bear Heir!" The slogan played on Mr Medvedev's surname, which is derived from the Russian word for "bear", and poked fun at what the group said were "farcical and pornographic elections" in which Mr Medvedev was to inherit Vladimir Putin's "throne". The group was charged with "disseminating pornography" and so began a life underground, where the core group of activists eschewed mobile phones and moved apartments frequently to evade the authorities.
the stunts became bigger and harder to ignore. The most notorious Voina action was last June, when several members of the
group painted a penis on the
Plutser-Sarno, 48, said he left the apartment where
the other group members were arrested the day before the raid and has been on
the run ever since. He claims that he comes and goes from
most controversial of all was Voina's final stunt
before the arrests, which the artists called "Palace Revolution".
Members overturned seven police cars, some of them with officers inside, at
"If the artists consider their action a piece of art, if the experts along with the audience agree with it, what it is then? Art or crime? We struggle against the authorities who are criminal indeed." Those same authorities have begun to clamp down hard on Voina. Mr Vorotnikov and Mr Nikolayev have been charged with hooliganism, which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison, while Mr Plutser-Sarno has been charged with organising a criminal group, which could land him a sentence of up to 20 years.
month, a judge in
Not everyone in the Russian art community approves of Voina, but there has been a certain solidarity after their arrest, and the Dick Captured by KGB has been nominated for a prestigious contemporary art prize.
"Voina has inherited the tradition of the Russian futurists
from the early 20th century. This isn't just art, but revolutionary art,"
said Olesya Turkina, a
curator and research fellow at the
Ms Turkina welcomed the release of the two artists on bail but said it was very worrying they would still have to face trial. "After perestroika we had 10 or 15 years of real artistic freedom, but now there are very worrying signs again," she said.
Wednesday, 23 February 2011