Pussy Riot

13.9.23 - 14.1.24

Rooted in punk, humour, poetry and pure rage, the feminist-activist art collective Pussy Riot, formed in Moscow 2011, are famous for their spontaneous and courageos actions challenging the Russian regime. Documenting their decade-long story, this is Pussy Riot's first ever museum exhibition.

Using colourful clothes, disguises and protest songs in their face-off with the Russian authorities, the collected actions of Pussy Riot stand out as some of the most powerful political art of the 21st century

From the action 'Punk Prayer', Cathedral of Christ the Savior, Moscow, 2012. Photo: Mitya Aleshkovsky

From the action 'Putin Will Teach You How To Love The Motherland', Winter Olympic Games, Sochi, 2014. Photo: Anatoly Maltsev/EPA/Ritzau Scanpix

Louisiana's presentation of the group's work is the largest to date with hundreds of photo and video recordings. Showing a large number of Pussy Riot’s non-violent actions in public spaces and the consequences these performances have had for those taking part: arrests, beatings, imprisonment, poisoning, surveillance and house arrest.

From the action 'Policeman Enters The Game', World Cup finale, Moscow, 2018. Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters/Ritzau Scanpix

FROM PUNK PRAYER TO ESCAPE

Several of Pussy Riot’s performances are legendary by now, including Punk Prayer, which took place in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012. Viewers from all around the world also caught sight of four members of the group, disguised as police officers, running across the pitch during the 2018 World Cup final match between France and Croatia in Moscow.

In addition to these, the exhibition also presents a large range of lesser-known actions as well as the escape from Russia of some of the members in 2022. Viewed from the perspective of Pussy Riot, the exhibition provides an insight into the evolution of Putin’s Russia over the past ten years, leading up to the military invasion of Ukraine.

Trial after 'Punk Prayer', Moscow 2012. Yekaterina Samutsevich, Maria Alyokhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova in the “aquarium” cage in the courtroom. Photo: Sergey Ponomarev

From the action 'Careful, Fragile', 2020. Photo: Pussy Riot

Recurrent themes in Pussy Riot’s feminist, anti-Putin practice include freedom of expression, human rights, LGBTQ+ rights and the release of political prisoners, while recent actions and works feature anti-war statements and support for Ukraine.

From the perspective of cultural history, the work of Pussy Riot is rooted in Dadaism and Fluxus and in a broader sense in the political art of 20th-century actionism, while taking the methods of happening and performance art to the extreme in the unprotected environment of public spaces.

Velvet Terrorism

Maria Alyokhina arrested after the action 'Paper Planes', 2018. Photo: Martin_camera

"The Louisiana is an obvious platform to bring the group's highly topical political art close to life,”states museum director Poul Erik Tøjner, "the exhibition in fact can be seen as a significant addition to the series of critical voices against e.g. authoritarian systems that have been heard and spotlighted here through the years."

The exhibition is a an extended version of one presented at the artist-run exhibition venue Kling & Bang in Reykjavik, Iceland, developed in close collaboration between Maria Alyokhina (b. 1988) of Pussy Riot and the curators Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir, Ragnar Kjartansson and Dorothée Kirch. Maria Alyokhina (f. 1988). Alyokhina is among Pussy Riot’s members, an artist, political activist and author of the book Riot Days (Penguin, 2017).

The title of the exhibition, 'Velvet Terrorism', derives from the term used by one of Putin’s spiritual advisors, Bishop Tikhon Shevkunov to dub their work following the group’s protest performance Punk Prayer at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow in 2012.

Graffiti, War is not that far away, 2022. Photo: Pussy Riot

ABOUT PUSSY RIOT

Pussy Riot emerged in 2011 around the time that the then Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin had announced that he would again be running for president in the upcoming Russian elections. Photos of their action in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in 2012 went global. Here they ran up to the alter and performed their Punk Prayer, a song exhorting the Virgin Mary to rise to the occasion as a feminist and liberate Russia.

Sergey Ponomarev/AP/Ritzau Scanpix

As a result of the action in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, three of the group’s members were sentenced to two years in prison. They were charged with ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.’ The trial and imprisonments received huge international attention.

Pussy Riot deploy sudden actions with a surprise factor, which they document in photos and video. They also publish and perform punk music on tour, publish books, take part in debates and give political speeches.

Today, Pussy Riot amount to more of a movement than a delimited collective. Pussy Riot are active in small groups and in a variety of non-coordinated projects throughout the world. Their motto is: ‘ANYONE CAN BE PUSSY RIOT’.

From the action 'Rainbow Diversion', 2020. Photo: Pussy Riot