Russia’s feminist punk group Pussy Riot brings protest art exhibit to Montreal

Pussy Riot, the Russian feminist activist performance group, has transformed the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal into a punk haven with its new exhibit that opens Wednesday and runs until March 10. 

The exhibit, titled Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia, features multicoloured walls full of photos and scribbled handwriting, bare lightbulbs coming down the ceiling, noise and a hands-on exhibition that includes drawings and videos.

The show is a blend of art and social commentary assembled by Pussy Riot member Maria “Masha” Alyokhina. It documents the group’s decade-long activism against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. Pussy Riot activism is anti-authoritarian, feminist and pro-LGBTQ.

Alyokhina fled Russia in May 2022, disguised as a food carrier — as her girlfriend and fellow Pussy Riot activist Lucy Shtein had done a couple months prior — as Putin cracked down on activists. She says she wants to shed light on hidden parts of Russia.

wanted photos of Maria
Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and her girlfriend and fellow Pussy Riot member Lucy Shtein were on Russia’s wanted list database. (Sara Eldabaa/CBC)

“It’s cool to show people how the state was changing, but the goal of the exhibition is to stop the indifference and to call people who will see our actions to do their own actions and stand up for their freedoms,” she told reporters Tuesday.

Pussy Riot became infamous in 2012 after a performance of a song called Punk Prayer at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which was deemed sacrilegious by religious authorities. The women were arrested and sentenced to two years in Russian penal colonies.

The name Velvet Terrorism even came from Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov, considered to be Putin’s spiritual confidant, who used the term to describe the performance during the trials. 

But the group continued its activism after members completed their prison sentences, leading to more trials, heavy surveillance and house arrests. 

a purple wall with writing on it, photos of protests and Pussy Riot members' arrests
Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia documents the group’s decade-long activism against Vladimir Putin’s regime. (Sara Eldabaa/CBC)

The exhibition follows the group’s actions, including when they performed a music set on the roof of a detention centre and marked Putin’s 68th birthday by hanging Pride flags from five government buildings in Moscow, as well as the trials and prison sentences that followed. 

Today, Alyokhina and her band members are in exile and can’t return to Russia without facing persecution.

John Zeppetelli, director and chief curator of the MAC, saw the exhibit in Iceland and knew he had to bring it to Montreal for its North American debut.

He says it’s important to share stories of activists like Pussy Riot because of a “surge of extreme ideologies and fascism all over the world.”

“It’s an incredibly moving story because they fought the system and they fought it with their own bodies and the show shows your their actions and the reactions,” he said.

The band will also play a show on Nov. 1 presented by POP Montreal at the Rialto Theatre.

Logo-favicon

Sign up to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our [link]privacy policy[/link] for more info.

Sign up today to receive the latest local, national & international Criminal Justice News in your inbox, everyday.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.

This post was originally published on this site