Who is behind the Russian dissident artists
The image of Olga Misik, the 17-year-old who sat in front of the anti-riot troops of Vladimir Putin in recent days reading the Constitution, is one of the highlights in the struggle for freedom of expression in today's Russia. A good girl's face, brown hair that falls on her shoulders, legs crossed on the asphalt, the young woman read a slew of chant-like articles in the face of the soldiers. Almost a lullaby: 31 guarantees freedom of assembly, 29 protects freedom of speech, Article 3 defines the people as the main source of power. The peaceful protest, which was also repeated on August 3 in Moscow, was triggered by the exclusion of independent candidates from the municipal elections to be held in the capital on September 8. Eventually Olga was arrested, and another 1600 people were arrested. But his face has made the rounds of newspapers and homepages across the world.
Misik's is just the latest in a long series of "creative" protests with which Russian dissidents demonstrate against Putin and his followers. One of the most ingenious is called Mostration & nbsp; and it is a sort of artistic performance that aims to parody a serious demonstration. A sort of absurd procession in which instead of slogans against the government, signs with meaningless phrases, drawings of hens, emerald green aliens, hippos, letters that make up meaningless words appear. The first to choose this form of opposition were the Poles of Wrocław in the 1980s to say no to the pro-Soviet regime. Now, for once, something Polish has invaded the largest cities in Russia: from Kusk, where & nbsp; on May 1st a few years ago, about thirty people marched towards the center shouting the slogan "For the rights of butterflies in the stomach" , until the latest demonstrations in Novosibirsk and Moscow.
For years in Russia, art and creativity have gone where politics fails. They insinuate themselves into the veins of public opinion and flow losing themselves in a thousand tunnels. It becomes very difficult for controllers to intervene because the branches are infinite. In the beginning were the Pussy Riot. Born in 2011, they organized various unauthorized shows in Red Square or in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior, also in Moscow, which then became very clicked music videos. With the themes that more than anyone else itch your hands on the parts of the Kremlin: feminism, LGBT rights and opposition to the oppressive politics of Tsar Vladimir. In 2012 two members of the group, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, were sentenced to two years in prison, causing a strong international outcry. Today the band travels the world, holds concerts and has also opened an online shopping where it sells its t-shirts and its technicolor balaclavas.
Definitely less glamorous is Oleg Kulik. To attract the attention of the public, curators and critics, the Ukrainian photographer and performer has chosen to transform himself into a different animal each time: a dog, a bird, a fish, a bull. In Vienna he got naked to bark at the crowd, in Rotterdam he was led on a leash on the streets of the center, while in New York he was closed for two weeks (I repeat, two weeks) in a fake cell to report the crisis of contemporary American society.
But the gold palm to the most controversial artist of all goes to Pyotr Pavlensky. Hollow face, lean skeletal, perpetually suffering expression. For him, art has only one purpose: to denounce. And the goal must be pursued by any means. Even the most extreme. Even if there is to rage on your body. That's why its performances are only and exclusively for strong stomachs. Like when he nailed his testicles to the pavement of Red Square or set fire to the door of a secret service building in Moscow or sewed his lips with red thread or climbed the roof of the Serbsky psychiatric clinic and, wrapped in a long barbed wire severed his earlobe or set fire to a branch of the Bank of France in Paris.
All this dissident creativity has a single common denominator: the former banker Igor Tsukanov. Moscovita, born in 1962, now lives in London and has a rather courageous hobby: collecting only and exclusively art that opposes the regime. Just in the English capital, and more precisely at the Saatchi Gallery, last season he set up the exhibition & nbsp; Art Riot: Post-Sovietic Actionism & nbsp; in which the works of the Pussy Riot, Pavlensky and Kulik were collected. Now Tsukanov wants to export this performance to every corner of the planet. In 2016, Financial Time called him the tycoon who prefers to buy a museum rather than a mega yacht. He confirms: «I retired from business in 2012 at 50 years old. I chose to dedicate the third part of my life (in the first I was a macroeconomic scholar, in the second banker) to philanthropy. In particular, I wanted to collect Russian art from the 50s to 90s to collect it within a private institution. Once this adventure started, I didn't have time to think about yachts. "
An adventure that perhaps will be able to involve museums all over the world but it will be difficult to take place within Russian borders. "I know - he explains - but I want to make known the artists of the Art Riot movement everywhere, including Italy. I have already started negotiations with a couple of museums ». And in the motherland? 80% of the population supports the current government. «True, but the remaining 20% represent almost 20 million people. And this is precisely the public that is attracted to the works of dissident artists. It's no small thing ... »
Tsukanov is lined up against the former KGB leader and is not taking a step back. Indeed, if possible he runs forward and increases the dose. Like when he said without too many words: "If you want to destroy a country, appoint a president like Putin." Is it possible that I'm not afraid? The last in chronological order that sided against the Kremlin was Alexei Navalny, and he ended up first in a prison cell where he is serving 30 days of detention for his appeals to unauthorized demonstrations and then in the & nbsp; hospital bed for suspected poisoning. "I always say what I really think, regardless of who might be disappointed, including the Russian authorities - says Tsukanov - Nobody should be afraid to tell the truth". Curtain. Applause.