“Without freedom, no art; art lives only on the restraints it imposes on itself, and dies of all others.”
- Albert Camus
“I thought the church loved its children … It turns out the church only loves those children who believe in Putin.”
- Maria Alekhina
Running within my veins is an international blend of blood cells owing their existence to a somewhat mixed and muddied heritage that is one part American, one part European and one part Russian. These days, my blood – and not just the Russian part – is boiling, especially after witnessing the conviction of 3 young women, members of ‘Pussy Riot’, an anonymous Russian feminist performance art group/punk rock band.
A few days ago, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, both young mothers, as well as Ekaterina Samucevich, were sentenced by a Russian court to two years each after being found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.
If you haven’t heard the story, here are the basics: In February of this year, the artists performed a ‘flash performance’ of their song titled, ‘Punk-Prayer: Virgin Mary, Put Putin Away’, at the altar of Moscow’s main cathedral. The stunt lasted approximately 30 seconds or so before the group were forced from the church.
Yes, the impromptu politically charged exhibition obviously rubbed many folks the wrong way – especially those it was aimed at, namely Russian President Vladimir Putin and church leader Patriarch Kirill, a staunch supporter of Putin’s re-election campaign; strange bedfellows given the supposedly formal separation of church and state.
Incredibly, the Russian court chose to dismiss the obvious political and personal aim of the song, as well as the artists’ actual testimony, and instead categorized their actions as essentially a ‘religious hate crime’ and act of ‘social disorder’. In this last categorization, the court referred to “devilish dances” and ‘limb jerking” (insert long pregnant pause here to collect your dropped jaws).