…ON THE PUSSY RIOT CASE C-Print
I've learned about the Pussy Riot case from the Israeli media.
I have lived in Israel for a quarter century, and I am more deeply involved in Israeli social life than in Russian society. And yet, unexpectedly, I've realized that the fate of these Russian girls, their artistic gesture, and their civic courage have moved me on a deeply personal level, touching some very important aspects of my soul, and even intersecting with my artistic work.
In 2009, I and Galina Bleikh were subjected to enormous pressure by the Israeli society – and later, after publications in the global media, by international society as well – because of our FERROR (female terror) exhibition, which dealt with the problem of terror perpetrated by female suicide bombers. This exhibition was banned by the administration of the Tel-Aviv Journalists' House and removed from the walls on the opening day. This event, reported by the Associated Press, was immediately picked up by tens of media outlets all over the world, and we instantly became the objects of their attention. Later, we were subjected to a powerful wave of hate, aggression, threats, and misunderstanding from numerous bloggers, journalists, and even friends. Our e-mail addresses and phone numbers were circulated on the Internet, and we received lots of unfriendly messages. Even though no one brought a lawsuit against us (although the Association of Relatives of Victims of Terror did threaten to report us to the police, claiming that the exhibition constituted "incitement to violence), I admit that it was psychologically very hard for us to weather this onslaught.
At that moment, we were forced to confront the problem of the warped perception of artistic expression by society. Almost everyone was "offended" –victims of terror, Christians, Jews, Muslims, secular people, both educated and not-so-educated individuals… Even Yuli Edelstein, the Israeli Minister of Information, gave an accusatory interview against the background of our works, claiming that democracy must be defended against such art. Likud MP Ofir Akunis declared: "this is a slap in the face of thousands of Israelis who were victimized by terrorists – similar to those who are depicted in these works. Freedom of expression has its limits". Apparently, we must have touched some sore spot deep within the public consciousness, since the reaction to such "simple" images turned out to be so strong.
Boris Groys writes that "the artist is more social than the society in which he lives…and because he is more social, the gap between him and society widens…"
It is this experience from my recent past that makes me feel empathy for the Pussy Riot girls.
Through their act, they have managed to draw the attention of all of Russia to the negative processes that had lately intensified in the country. Their protest was an individual artistic gesture, and yet they were not afraid to take responsibility for everyone. But were they heard by those who should have listened to them?
I would like to point out the contribution of Alek Epstein – the author of the book Art on the Barricades – to the defense of the girls. He clearly demonstrates that "the image of the Virgin Mary, like the other images of Christianity (and all other religions), are no longer the symbolic property of the priests, and they serve as beacons of inspiration for numerous artists…"
Obviously, the unprecedented persecution of the girls is a personal act of revenge on the part of the Russian authorities. In this regard, I would like to quote the words of Vladimir Putin concerning the action of Pussy Riot in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior: "There is nothing good in this, I wouldn't really like to comment, but if the girls were, let's say, in Israel, and insulted something in Israel – you probably know that there are some pretty tough guys there - it wouldn't be so easy for them to leave".
I don't think that "Comrade Putin" should shift the responsibility for the judiciary persecution of the girls "from a sore head to a clear head". Such overtures look rather dubious, leading to the thought: "if he is praising me for this, there must be something wrong with me".
I hope that my work will support the girls during their imprisonment. They are close in age to my eldest son. Women in Israel like to wear pendants shaped like small, stylized human figures, depending on the number of children they have. I also wanted to "spiritually" adopt these girls in this way. And so I did.
I'm aware of the possibility that the friends of Pussy Riot will also want to make such pendants and wear them as a sign of support for the girls. :)
I hope you will be released as soon as possible!
From Israel with love!