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|The Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot rattles elites in age of YouTube |
Two members of the Russian feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot hold their trophy after they were awarded the 1Live Krone 2012 music prize on December 6, 2012 in Cologne, western Germany. They were given the prize in the category "special award". AFP PHOTO / HENNING KAISER.
By: Stuart Williams
MOSCOW (AFP).- Within the space of less than a year a group of young Russian women in 2012 went from being almost unknown provocateurs to global superstars and a symbol of change in their country.
The Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot have only a half dozen songs to their name, no recording contract, have never held a conventional concert let alone sold an album.
Yet now they are garlanded worldwide as symbols of a battle for liberty and freedom of speech under Vladimir Putin, praised by personalities ranging from Madonna to Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi.
Their extraordinary rise would have been unimaginable in an age before social media and video-sharing, which helped turn fringe anarchists into celebrities whose trademark multi-coloured balaclavas are now instantly recognisable.
Internet media has allowed artists to try and break censorship at home and spread their message far beyond frontiers, be it Pussy Riot or the equally prominent Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.
The most detailed examination of the Russian protest movement to emerge so far is not a book or a traditional documentary but a sequence of dozens of short Internet films called Srok (The Term) posted on YouTube and elsewhere.
The scrutiny of the protest leaders is by no means always sympathetic but the project was sufficiently explosive for investigators to last week raid the home of its director, the filmmaker Pavel Kostomarov who has now suspended the project.
--- Putin got scared? --
Pussy Riot first emerged in the autumn of 2011, initially an offshoot of the Russian street art group Voina (War) which had already won a name with subversive stunts.
Members of Pussy Riot had been involved in some of Voinas most notorious actions that have included the mock hanging of immigrants in a supermarket and a group sex session in a Moscow zoological museum.
In their first major stunt in October 2011 they showered Moscow metro passengers with pillow feathers as they sang for an equivalent of Egypt's Tahrir Square in Russia.
They took to the roof of a prison building to serenade detainees arrested in an anti-Putin protest and then in January 2012 managed to perform on Red Square singing Rebellion in Russia, Putins Got Scared and letting off pink flares.
Only a handful of people saw the protests live but the group astutely mixed footage of the performances with studio-recorded sound to create a compulsive Internet video.
Even then the combination of aggressive rap-style lyrics in Russian to a base track of thrash rock was hardly to everybody's taste.
But what happened on February 21, 2012 made them impossible to ignore.
Four members of the group, kitted out in coloured balaclavas, tights and vests managed to perform a punk prayer in the altar area of the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow imploring the Virgin Mary to rid us of Putin.
The action itself was chaotic and the girls were rapidly apprehended by security. But all was recorded, the performance was edited that night with a new soundtrack and that video has now been viewed 2.5 million times on YouTube.
In a trial denounced as a throwback to Soviet show trials, three of the girls were condemned to two years in a prison camp for hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.
Images of them peering through the defendants cage in court created yet another indelible image while the trio were nominated for the EU's Sakharov prize.
One was freed on appeal but two remain in prison camps - celebrated throughout the world and a painful thorn under Putin's skin.
-- Gangnam Chinese-Style ---
A few years back, the chances of a contemporary Chinese artist becoming a global freedom icon would have been about the same as Russian punk anarchists with a taste for thrash metal.
But as global perceptions of Putins Russia have been shaped by Pussy Riot, many ideas about China are now seen through the prism of its most internationally prominent cultural figure Ai Weiwei.
Ais exuberant parody of the video Gangnam Style by South Korean rapper PSY - the most viewed YouTube video of all time - on the surface appears charming but was deemed provocative enough for it to be blocked by the Chinese authorities.
The video shows the bearded artist in a bright pink T-shirt imitating PSYs famous horse dance along with a cohort of assistants.
But in a symbol of Beijings efforts to silence him he pulls out a pair of handcuffs which are then used to dance a strange pas-de-deux with a fellow activist.
Ai, 55, has worked in numerous artistic media, including photography, sculpture, painting and architecture, but has become famous for a brand of performance art linked to political activism.
It has included a campaign to identify the children killed in school collapses during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which cast a broad light on poorly constructed buildings and used video of officials and police trying to silence him.
Ai disappeared into police custody for 81 days last year as activists were rounded up amid online calls for Arab Spring-style protests in China and was then fined $2.4 million in a tax evasion case.
-- Full Circle --
At a time of uprising in the Middle East and economic crisis across much of the world, art and politics mixed more uneasily than ever as artists emerged as champions of rights causes.
At the end of Iranian director Jafar Panahis 2000 film "The Circle" about the daily lives of women in Iran, a prison door slams shut on a cell containing all the main female protagonists of the movie.
The Venice Golden Lion and Berlin Silver Bear-winning filmmaker was feted across the world as one of the most original voices of the Iranian new wave.
But he was given a six-year prison term and 20-year ban on making films for "making propaganda" against Irans Islamic regime. He is now under house arrest, awaiting the final verdict in his case.
Along with jailed rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who is serving an 11-year sentence, Panahi was the co-winner of the EUs Sakharov prize this year in what the organisers said was a message of solidarity and recognition.
Panahi nonetheless still managed to make a picture -subversively entitled This is Not a Film -- about his daily secluded live which was smuggled out of the country on nothing more than a USB stick.
© 1994-2012 Agence France-Presse
|Last Week News
December 16, 2012
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Galerie Lelong announced the completion of a major new work by Andy Goldsworthy: Stone Sea
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The Centro de Arte Contemporáneo de Málaga presents recent works by British sculptor Richard Deacon
Recent ceramic works by Elisa D'Arrigo on view at The Elizabeth Harris Gallery
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Yoko Ono picks up German human rights prize at Berlin's Checkpoint Charlie Museum
Exhibition of works from the D.Daskalopoulos Collection opens in Edinburgh
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Norwegian artist Matias Faldbakken opens exhibition at Wiels Contemporary art centre in Brussels
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Smithsonian exhibition parallels the 1863 emancipation of slaves with the 1963 March on Washington
Film in Space: An exhibition of film and expanded cinema selected by Guy Sherwin opens at Camden Arts Centre
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Aspen Art Museum announces $2.5 million gift establishing Nancy and Bob Magoon CEO position
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Global Philatelic Library celebrates success and expansion
SFMOMA announces 2012 SECA Art Award winners
No bidder found for letters by 'Peanuts' creator
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Tate announces groundbreaking £5 million arts award for under 25s funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation
Indianapolis Museum of Art commissions Spencer Finch for Efroymson Family Entrance Pavilion
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New series of works on paper, videos and a mobile sculpture by Roger Andersson at Poppy Sebire
New, purpose-built Vancouver Art Gallery will benefit entire visual arts community
Shaun Odell exhibits at Jack Hanley Gallery in New York
Sweden's ice hotel, a work of art for the here-and-now
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Yale University Art Gallery reopens $135 million renovated and reinstalled galleries
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AXA Equitable donates Thomas Hart Benton's epic mural "America Today" to Met Museum
Hans Christian Andersen's first fairy tale found in Denmark's national archives
Mick Jagger love letters written to American singer Marsha Hunt sold at London auction
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Johannes Vermeer's masterpiece "Woman in Blue Reading a Letter" travels to Sao Paulo
$6 million vase once owned by First Lady Lou Henry Hoover sells at Bonhams in San Francisco
Corcoran Trustees vote they will focus on approaches that keep the museum in the 17th Street building
Four letters by Tsar Nicholas II sold for record price of CHF 120,000 at Hôtel des Ventes de Genève
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RISD Museum closes year with significant gift to cap Radeke Restoration Project
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An aristocratic site in Bassing between independent Gaul and the Roman conquest
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Centre Pompidou Foundation appoints Sylvia Chivaratanond as the first Adjunct Curator of American Art
Sound installation conceived by Hans Tutschku for the rooftop of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
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