In September 2013, Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot started a hunger strike in the penal colony in Mordovia. She protested against the hard working conditions as well the threats and abuse that she and other inmates suffered from the colony employees.
In her letter from the colony published in The Guardian she wrote:
"My brigade in the sewing shop works 16 to 17 hours a day. From 7.30am to 12.30am. At best, we get four hours of sleep a night. We have a day off once every month and a half. We work almost every Sunday. Prisoners submit petitions to work on weekends "out of [their] own desire"."
Artists Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky traveled to the colony to support Nadya in prison. The artists produced graphic works and posters and exhibited them at the entrance to the colony. The posters portray Nadya Tolokonnikova, the director of the Mordovian Criminal Department and cite the text from her letter.
Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky imply propaganda methods of a poster, used to mobilize the public opinion in a specific, unambiguous way, for production of independent activist works targeting sexism and unfair labor practices in prison. Alexey Knedlyakovsky calls this the direct action art.
The works also contributed to romanticizing of the image of Nadya Tolokonnikova as a beauty fighting against the beast and a heroine.
Does the quality of the art work change once the artist chooses the strategy of a direct action? What is the role of the artist in the context of censorship and state oppression? What happens with these works once they are exhibited outside of the context of their production?
The works have been shown at Marat Guelman Gallery in Moscow and are exhibited outside Russia for the first time.
Original works produced in Mordovia will be presented by the artists.
NB! The exhibition is open on 12 May only.
The exhibition opens before the seminar with Pussy Riot, Judith Butler and Rosi Braidotti at Chateau Neuf, 4.30 pm.