Cats, punk, arson and new media

Art activism in Russia 2007–2015

Authored by: Yngvar B. Steinholt

The Routledge Companion To Media And Activism

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138202030
eBook ISBN: 9781315475059
Adobe ISBN:


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On 9 November 2015 Petr Pavlenskii (b. 1984), Russia’s perhaps most daring art activist, staged his performance ‘Threat’. He poured petrol on the main entrance to the notorious Lubianka building in Moscow, headquarters of the Russian security services FSB and formerly of the Soviet KGB, set the doors on fire and posed in front of them on photo and video images holding the empty jerry can. The action marked a culmination point of roughly seven years of spectacular art activism in Russia, highlighted – at least as far as Western media are concerned – by the feminist/LGBT art activist collective Pussy Riot’s February 2012 performance of a ‘Punk Prayer’ in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral. The flourishing of art activism during these seven years was facilitated by the expansion of internet-based media. Notably, however, online-disseminated art activism was not simply born out of technological advancements. A whole range of approaches and strategies were already developed, tested and ready for implementation in the quickly expanding internet. Thus, in order to fully appreciate Russian art activism’s expansion into the web, its development since the mid-1970s has to be taken into account. Following a brief historical overview, this chapter presents three major exponents of Russian art activism’s ‘golden age’ of 2007–2015 and some of their key performances.

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