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  • Writer's pictureConny Chavez

Pussy Riot’s First Political Performance Art In LA


Russian feminist protest and performance art group lead a protest with an on-stage performance following the opening of the “Pussy Riot: Putin’s Ashes” exhibition at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery. The event welcomed the public to protest against the war in Ukraine, called for solidarity and the neutralization of Russian President Vladimir Putin.


Pussy Riot founder Nadya Tolokonnikova opened her art exhibition “Putin’s Ashes” at Santa Monica Boulevard Jeffrey Deitch gallery. Entry was only granted to people wearing a balaclava, the garment that makes the Pussy Riot look iconic. About 300 balaclavas were given away for free at the door, one-third of which were graffitied by Tolokonnikova. The first level of the gallery focused on the short film Putin’s Ashes, directed, edited and scored by Tolokonnikova. On all four blank walls, Putin’s Ashes was projected displaying 11 women in matching black satin slips, fishnet stockings and red balaclavas gathering in a desert. The women, most of which are from Russia, Ukraine or Belarus, perform a ritual as they burn a 10-by-10 foot painting of President Putin. In the video, Tolokonnikova is seen sweeping the ashes with her hands into a small glass container.


Before heading upstairs, a wall in the small hallway holds a framed Pussy Riot “Putin’s Ashes” poster by Obey Giant’s Shepard Fairey. Next to it is a quote reading: “Our unit is doing everything to defend our country from the Russians and make them leave Ukraine for good. We are fighting a very heavy battle and your funds will help us purchase drones and equipment that will allow us to locate the enemy during combat and save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers.”


One of three faux-fur signs on display.

Upstairs, is a small closet-like room which holds three fuzzy faux-fur frames displaying 5 grams, 30 grams and 100 grams of small glass containers labeled “Putin’s Ashes”. Outside the dark, red-lit room are three more faux-fur frames decorated with pink “Danger” tape, this time with a big red button in its center. One reads: “This button neutralizes Vladimir Putin.” Another reads: “This button eliminates sexism.” A pink faux-fur frame centered in the middle reads in Ukrainian with two red buttons.


One of three glass containers filled with ashes.

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Ukrainian Entrepreneur Daria Shapovalova gave a speech welcoming guests and thanking attendees for their support. Shapovalova gave her speech in Ukrainian and welcomed everyone to visit Ukraine when the war is over. “Ukraine is really a beautiful country so please come visit, when the war is over of course,” said Shapovalova.


After viewing the exhibition, guests made their way down the block to a public parking lot where Pussy Riot held their first political protest performance in the city of Los Angeles. The group performed five songs: “Black Snow,” “Panic Attack,” “Rage,” “1312,” and “Punk Prayer.” The crowd was quick to form a mosh pit as vocalist Nadya Tolokonnikova screamed through the lyrics. Tolokonnikova and her back up dancers were quick to display the Pussy Riot unapologetic spirit shaking their asses directly in front of a few lucky front row audience members.


Tolokonnikova performs free show.

Tolokonnikova was joined by friends on stage to discuss the war in Ukraine. The crowd cheered as Tolokonnikova and friends chanted “glory to Ukraine” and called for solidarity and prayers for Ukrainians. Tolokonnikova also stated she does not take credit for Pussy Riot, ensuring fans that her main goal is political advocacy. She went on to discuss how she is not a professional musician, Pussy Riot just started off as a group wanting to be heard yet surprisingly became good at making politically charged music.


Pussy Riot is a Moscow-based provocative punk rock feminist group founded in 2011. The group gained global recognition when five members performed inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012. Nadya Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich were arrested for hooliganism. Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina were sentenced to two years imprisonment. Though there is no official lineup for Pussy Riot as a band, it is seen as mostly Tolokonnikova’s project. Both Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina use the name Pussy Riot even though they currently work independently.


Support for the anti-Putinist group continues to grow. The Pussy Riot: Putin’s Ashes exhibition will run until Friday, Feb. 3 at the Jeffrey Deitch gallery.


(Originally published on Mxdwn.com)

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