December 11, 2017

Inside Pussy Riot

It’s 100 years since the Russian Revolution and five years since Pussy Riot started a small revolution of their own by reciting a punk prayer in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

As part of the Saatchi Gallery’s Art Riot: Post Soviet Actionism exhibition, Inside Pussy Riot tells the story of the post-punk feminist art collective who dared to defy the system and faced the consequences.
Theatre company Les Enfants Terribles and Pussy Riot’s co-founder Nadya Tolokonnikova have joined forces to create an immersive theatrical production which invites participants to pull on the group’s trademark balaclava and take a stand.
In 2012, Pussy Riot staged a protest at the cathedral, chanting: “Mother of God, chase Putin away!” until church officials stepped in to stop them. Three members of the group, including Nadya, were arrested, charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” and ended up in prison.
The Russian Orthodox Church was targeted for its anti-feminist stance, rather than out of disrespect for religion itself, according to Nadya: “We didn’t hate religion, we just wanted to start a dialogue.”
Some people would call the move courageous, but Nadya puts her own actions down to naivety. “I was only 22 when I was arrested. We didn’t really think of the consequences. We put on balaclavas so we could be anonymous, but after the court appearance, I was exposed, my identity was revealed.”
While in prison. she went on a hunger strike to protest at the severe conditions. After being fed on rotten potatoes and sentenced to hard labour, she decided to speak out against the oppressive system:
“The hunger strike helped to spread awareness about the conditions. The aim was to inspire people to act. I had access to the media and to lawyers, which helped our case.”
The provocative one-hour show at the Saatchi Gallery aims to give people a taste of prison life and spark a discussion about how conditions could be improved.
Rather than a punishment-based system, Nadya would like to see more focus on resolving social issues, saying: “People who commit crimes are not evil, they have just made a mistake because they felt that they didn’t belong in society.”
As to her overall vision for society as a whole, her aims are ambitious, yet simple: “Taking care of the planet and building a better future for our kids.”

Art Riot: Post-Soviet Actionism showcases Russian protest art from the past 25 years. Inside Pussy Riot is presented in association with The Tsukanov Family Foundation at The Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road London SW3, until 24 December.
Performances run from Monday to Sunday, from 11.15am.
Late nights on Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 8.30pm.
Running time approximately one hour with no break. Tickets are priced from £21.50.
Parental discretion is advised, and children aged 14 to 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Not suitable for under 14’s. The show contains nudity and themes relating to imprisonment and human rights abuse.

Further details available on the website: insidepussyriot.com

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