Street Art Storms Russia

Interview

Friday, September 30, 2011

This week, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev announced that Vladimir Putin would be United Russia's candidate next year, all but assuring him the presidency — possibly until 2024. Many in Russia saw this coming, and the country’s artists have been pioneering new forms of risky, highly public dissent.

Anna Nemtsova, Moscow correspondent for Newsweek and the Daily Beast, has been following the growing movement of street artists. Voina ("War"), a collective from St. Petersburg, is responsible for some of the most daring art actions. "They declared a war," Nemtsova tells Kurt Andersen, “to state corruption, injustice, and the political regime." 

It’s not high art. Voina’s actions (and the videos of them posted online) are designed only to mock and humiliate the Russian political class as humorously as possible, much like the illegal billboards of the collective Monolog. Last year Voina painted a 210-foot phallus on a drawbridge facing the Federal Security Bureau, the former KGB. Because of this and other actions (some of them truly Not Safe for Work), they remain underground to avoid arrest. But at the same time, the ministry of culture awarded Voina an art prize for their rude graffiti. "It's a very interesting phenomenon we have in Russia," Nemtsova says. "One hand is giving the prize, the other hand is punishing."

 

Slideshow: Political Russian Street Art

Monolog Tennis Partners

Tennis Partners, Moscow, August 2011.

The underground art collective Monolog mounted this image over an existing shopping mall billboard opposite the Kremlin. It shows Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin dressed as tennis partners, mocking their political partnership. It reads, "New Collection Spring-Summer 2011."

Monolog Captain Medvedev

Captain Medvedev. Moscow, August 2011.

Monolog’s street poster of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wearing a Captain America costume, holding an iPad. It reads, "Captain Russia. The First Ruler." Moscow's mayor's office deemed these poster displays "hooliganism" and ordered them to be taken down.

Voina Dick Captured by FSB
Voina/Courtesy of Anna Nemtsova

Dick Captured by FSB. St. Petersburg, June 2010.

Street installation of a 210-foot-long phallus painted on a bridge in St. Petersburg. When the bridge was raised, the image faced the Federal Security Bureau headquarters. This year, the Russian Ministry of Culture awarded the art group Voina the "Innovative Prize for Visual Art" for the work.

    Music Playlist
  1. The Examiners
    Artist: John Wesley Harding
    Album: The Sound of his Own Voice
    Label: Yep Roc Records
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. From Russia with Love
    Artist: DJ Vadim
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Guests:

Anna Nemtsova

Produced by:

Michele Siegel

Comments [2]

karin miller from new york city

this really fascinated me because i read and reread all the time. i sometimes feel guilty for rereading but there are books i love and read everyyear. i often reread a known book when i'm feeling sad and need a sure hit.

some of my rereads are classics, jane austen, but some are books i've just "discovered" snobs by julian fellows is a sure reread as are lawrence block 4 "hit man books."

rereading is like meeting a friend you see once a year and feel so happy with.

i try to balance, though, and am fairly successful. if i don't read new booksk where will i get my new rereads?

Oct. 02 2011 11:55 AM
William Helfand

I don't re-read books because I figure whatever you missed on the first reading you'll learn more by reading a different book. However, I did recently re-read Edmund Wilson's "To the Findland Station" which I originally read 53 years ago. The book is "dense" and the breath of Wilson's scholarship is impressive. It was one of the books that got me interested in history and, in particular, a critical approach to that subject. Thomas Mann has a short essay on why you should re-read "The Magic Mountain" at the end of his book. I considered it but it was tough going the first time around, I was young and the kids were playing baseball outside.

Oct. 01 2011 08:33 AM

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