The three Pussy Riot members who were sentenced to two years in prison last week will become the centerpiece of a Sept. 10 pop-up exhibition and fundraiser in New York backed by Amnesty International.
Five videos of the group -- which comprises not only those arrested but other performance artists -- will be shown at Lombard-Freid Projects in Chelsea in a show called “Pussy Riot.”
Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, 22, Ekaterina Samutsevich, 30, and Maria Alekhina, 24, were convicted of inciting religious hatred and hooliganism with their Feb. 21 “punk prayer,” “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin, Drive Putin Away.” In that action, five women (two weren’t brought to trial) in neon tights and balaclavas danced by the altar of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Tolokonnikova and Alekhina have young children.
“This is not about raising awareness or protesting anymore,” said Lea Freid, a partner at Lombard-Freid. “This is about raising money for the women, their families and defense.”
The trial sparked international protests. Supporters of the trio have included Paul McCartney, Sting and Madonna. On the eve of the verdict, actress Chloe Sevigny joined other performers to read translations of the women’s writings in a packed basement of Manhattan’s hip Ace Hotel.
Lombard-Freid has partnered with Amnesty International for the show and fundraiser. The nonprofit organization attempted to deliver a petition with 70,000 signatures calling for the women’s release to the Russian Embassy in Washington on Aug. 14. An embassy official dumped the papers on the sidewalk.
“We consider Pussy Riot prisoners of conscience and continue calling for their immediate and unconditional release,” said Ilona Kelly, interim director of the individuals-at-risk program at Amnesty International of the USA Inc. “We are very excited about the exhibition.”
The idea for the exhibition originated with Victoria Dushkina, 28, the general manager of Moscow’s Gary Tatintsian gallery, who said she came to New York two weeks ago hoping to organize a show of the art collective’s work. The project is unrelated to her work at the gallery, she said.
“I want to support them,” Dushkina said. “I share their spirit of opposition. I feel like I could have participated in one of their performances. I could have been in their place.” In their performance art, the collective tends to pursue actions that are unauthorized.
Dushkina got no response from the major Moscow galleries she approached with her campaign. “People are afraid,” she said. “I decided to come to New York because here no one is afraid.”
The five video performances to be screened at Lombard-Freid show the women -- in groups ranging from three to eight -- spouting out slogans such as “Feminist whip is good for Russia!” and “Death to prisons, freedom to protests!” -- to deafening electric-guitar accompaniment.
“The videos will be looped non-stop,” Dushkina said. “I’d like to create the atmosphere of absurdity and hysteria that characterized the Pussy Riot trial.”
In April, a brief exhibition called “Toasting to the Revolution” at Chelsea’s Family Business Gallery starred one member of the art collective as a diva with half her blue hair shaved off and a cigarette hanging from her pink lips.
Printed on paper and glued to the wall, the 2012 piece “Free Pussy Riot!” by David Ter-Oganyan and Alexandra Galkina was priced at $5,000.
On Sept. 7, New York rock bands, including Black Lolita and Interzona, will play at a benefit concert in support of Pussy Riot. The event will take place at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn and raise money for the three women’s families and lawyers.
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