by Grace Dent - Storyville: Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer.
Review - The Independent.
'The actions that skewered Russian protest group Pussy Riot, causing national trauma, are, to the British viewer, so minor that the footage is rather laughable. We watched during Pussy Riot – a Punk Prayer as the girls donned pastel-coloured balaclavas in the Cathedral of Christ Saviour, Moscow, then ran about dancing, singing and making some unsporting comments about Putin. In fact, most Brits wouldn't even find this laughable. More utterly unremarkable. If I were to go to Westminster Abbey this Saturday and leap about in a silly hat and no bra saying David Cameron was a prick, I'd have a bloody long wait for Sky News and the police to turn up.
The reactions, I'll wager, would involve: some Christian types who were mid-Mass tutting, someone in a Boden cardigan mumbling that this was a bit like when Jesus protested against money-lenders, some nuns on a day trip from Tring putting me on Instagram and then, eventually, a volunteer in a tabard from the tea shop bringing me a cup of milky PG Tips and a lavender slice.
What it would certainly would not lead to is national horror, mass rallys, calls for my hanging, my burning, my exorcism and my eventual transportation to Penal Colony Number 14 in Mordovia. As the documentary aired this week on BBC4, Pussy Riot member Nadia Tolokonnikova was being transferred to another unconfirmed colony. Nadia was, essentially, missing in the Russian prison system, which feels, to me, as disconcerting as the threats that the girls would “be killed in Siberia” for their unholy, feminist, anti-establishment actions that were heard during the trial footage.
Nadia is an enigmatic character. She is staggeringly beautiful and aware of the fact. She is emotionally ungiving and puts her feminist beliefs before her role as a mummy. She is wholly shameless about a previous protest she took part in where she had sex in a museum. She is calmly, aloofly and defiantly unrepentant about this whole Cathedral business. All of these elements – each and every one – so very very unbecoming in a woman, especially a Russian woman. The Orthodox Church, the media and her prosecutors detest her. The manner in which the Russian Orthodox Christians of 2013 quickly slip into calling Nadia, Masha and Katia “demons” or discussing how there must be a devil moving in them to commit this “sacrilegious act” feels like earwigging on footage of the Salem witch trials. But it's 2013 and they're holding the Winter Olympics there next February.
As we watched footage of the girls in their prison cage, being refused the right to see their children, being warned they might die in prison, while their ageing parents were jostled about by Orthodox thugs, it struck me how half-hearted and duplicitous the tone of tolerance and acceptance would be at the Sochi opening ceremony as compared to Danny Boyle's explosion of Great British free-thinking tolerance. Pussy Riot could have ran across Boyle's Green and Pleasant land topless with chainsaws and, in the grand scheme of things, no one would have cared.
“But don't you see, in Russia dancing in a cathedral is the equivalent of pissing on a war memorial?” someone Tweeted the other evening as I watched. And, yes, the documentary showed this too. It showed a country where religion was suppressed for many years and is thus now doubly sacred. But, more importantly, it showed a country with no history of performance or conceptual art protest; therefore, Pussy Riot playing bad electric guitar near an altar felt literally like the end of days. Like the Sex Pistols going on TV in the Seventies in Britain and telling Jesus himself to fuck off.
Meanwhile, in Britain 2013, we're bored to death with performance art, with Spiderman clinging to Buckingham Palace shouting about his rights as a father, or the Turner Prize exhibition full of child mannequins with cocks for faces or a whole array of passionate political fools who turn up daily on the green at Westminster in fancy dress as toilets, sheep, vaginas etc waving banners to make their point about clean water, EU quotas or chlamydia. In fact, we're so bored by the British equivalents of Pussy Riot that when laws are brought in to deplete our rights to protest, we don't really give a damn.
Whether one agrees with Pussy Riot's beliefs or their methods, A Punk Prayer's examination of the girls' fearlessness, their determination to shove feminist protest in the face of Russian Orthodoxy and their unflinching calm in the face of jackboots and holy water was wholly compelling. Before the girls were sentenced – their vows that they weren't being sacrilegious, weren't militant atheists and were in fact making a comment about state involvement in religion roundly ignored – they were permitted to give statements. Katia said: “I now have mixed feelings about this trial. On the one hand, we expect a guilty verdict. Compared to the judicial machine, we are nobodies, and we have lost. On the other hand, we have won. The whole world now sees that the criminal case against us has been fabricated.”
I'm not sure that the whole world knows Pussy Riot's story, but this Storyville certainly helped augment their growing legendary status.'
Randall Lard -
I once again humbly urge everyone on this site to sign the petition here - http://www.amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/PussyRiot
Oh well, fuck them then...
I tried to sign it, but that website didn't seem to care for my Android.
it's no surprise a male dog barks aggressively.
a pussy would sing soprano.
did you sign the petition Mary and Mike?
it appears that Cyndi Lauper sings "At Last" very well.
I nominate Pussy Riot for the best band name ever.
i sincerely urge everyone to watch this documentary film.
Pussy Riot - A Punk Prayer
i sincerely urge everyone to sign the Amnesty petition to release Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina.
helps to fill the void of no more Breaking Bad. Completely politically incorrect, too. Enjoy :)
What Do Artists Do All Day?
Cornelia Parker is a London-based sculptor and installation artist. She was born during the year 1956 in Cheshire, England. She was raised on a Cheshire smallholding. Cornelia Parker's work is regarded internationally for its complex, darkly humorous, ironic style. Cornelia Parker's work is highly allusive and patterned with cultural references to cartoons, a style which she adapts to her need to capture things in the moment before they slip away and are lost beyond human perception. When examining her work holistically one can see the following themes driving her work forward consumerism, globalization, and the role of the mass media in contemporary life. Cornelia Parker was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997 and featured in the 8th International Sharjah Biennial in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates in 2007.
Cornelia Parker has rural roots, as Simon Hattenstone for the Telegraph writes, Her sickly father had never been out with a girl until he was 34 and met Parker's mother, a German girl who had been traumatised as a Luftwaffe nurse in the second world war. Life was tough and physical – mucking out the pigs, milking the cows. "My father wanted a boy badly and didn't get one, so I was happy to be the surrogate boy. I was very strong, always doing manual labour." Later, Cornelia Parker studied art and received her MFA at Reading University in 1982. The Telegraph reports that Cornelia Parker trained at Wolverhampton Polytechnic because she was turned down by the larger colleges in London. After her Masters degree Cornelia lived a bohemian lifestyle in the fringes of Eastern London where she worked from home. She was awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Wolverhampton (2000), the University of Birmingham (2005), and the University of Gloucestershire (2008). As the Telegraph writes:
While she got teaching jobs in the art schools that had rejected her, she was opposed for years to the commercial art market, and wasn’t represented by a gallery until she was nominated for the Turner Prize in 1997. Parker is married to the American artist Jeff McMillan. She has a daughter Lily, with whom she became pregnant with at the age of 44. The pregnancy is depicted in a piece of art in which Parker purchased the night gown worn in the film Rosemary's Baby hoping to wear it for birth but it was too small so she displayed it as a piece of art.
Many of Cornelia Parker's artworks are ephemeral or 'site-specific', created for a single time and place. Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) was such a work, in which Cornelia Parker had the British Army explode a garden shed, and the fragments were suspended in the air around a single source of illumination casting shadows of the shattered pieces on the walls. This work was displayed at the Tate Modern Gallery. Mark Hudson wrote the following in a review of the work for Telegraph:
Squashing a brass band is quite another. Flattening a whole band’s worth of instruments and sending them to the North East, home of the Durham Miners’ Gala, where the blare of brass is the very breath of proletarian pride, suggests a degree of chutzpah bordering on the suicidal.
The striking style of the suspended sculpture, which challenges the limitations of time and space, is typical of Cornelia Parker's work. Hanging Fire (Suspected Arson) (1999) is another example of this type of sculpture, in which charred fragments of a building supposedly destroyed by arson are suspended by wires and pins in a pattern which is both geometrical and chaotic. The work captures the identity of the two states by a retroactive positioning, much in the manner of a forensic scientist might reconstruct the scene of a crime.
Cornelia Parker has had numerous solo exhibitions in England, Europe, and the United States, at the Serpentine Gallery, London (1998), ICA Boston (2000), the Galeria Civica de Arte Moderne in Turin (2001), the Kunstverein in Stuttgart (2004), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, California (2005), the Modern Museum at Fort Worth, Texas (2006) and Museo de Arte de Lima, Lima Peru (2008). The work of Cornelia Parker was included in group exhibitions and public collections at the Tate Gallery in London, MOMA in New York, the British Council, Henry Moore Foundation, De Young Museum in San Francisco, the Yale Center for British Art and many other venues.
Some of her most noted exhibitions and works include Chomskian Abstract (2008), Never Endings (2007, 2008), Brontëan Abstracts (2006), The Distance (A Kiss with String Attached) (2003), Subconscious of a Monument (2002), Blue Shift (2001), Edge of England (1999), and The Maybe, in collaboration with Tilda Swinton (1995).
b. 1956, Cheshire, England
For some years Cornelia Parker’s work has been concerned with formalising things beyond our control, containing the volatile and making it into something that is quiet and contemplative like the ‘eye of the storm’. She is fascinated with processes in the world that mimic cartoon ‘deaths’ – steamrollering, shooting full of holes, falling from cliffs and explosions. Through a combination of visual and verbal allusions her work triggers cultural metaphors and personal associations, which allow the viewer to witness the transformation of the most ordinary objects into something compelling and extraordinary.
2013 a solo exhibition at Frith Street Gallery, London
2012 The Unseen: 4th Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, China
2012 Medals of Dishonour a group exhibition at Hermitage’s Menshikov Palace, St Petersburg, Russia
2011 Thirty Pieces of Silver York St Mary’s, York
2010 Doubtful Sound, a solo exhibition at Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
2008 Latent News, a solo exhibition at Frith Street Gallery
2007 – 2008 Never Endings, a touring solo exhibition at IKON, Birmingham; Museo De Arte de Lima, Peru
2001 a solo exhibition at GAM, Galleria Civica D’Arte Moderna, Turin
2000 a solo exhibition at ICA Boston
Next week's episode: "The Do's and Don'ts of Financing a Hollow Log"