New East Digital Archive

Accusations of censorship as more exhibitions are shut down at Perm festival

10 June 2013

The White Nights festival in Perm has come under pressure after four of its exhibitions have been closed, seemingly at the request of unhappy local politicians. In response, Marat Guelman, one of the festival’s organisers has accused critics of political game-playing.

The cultural festival, which opened on 1 June, first encountered difficulties when Vasily Slonov’s exhibition of posters, Welcome! Sochi 2014, which satirised the forthcoming Olympics in Russian resort town Sochi, was criticised by Perm region senator Andrei Klimov for “Russophobic demonstrations” that were “not worthy of being in Perm region”. The exhibition was shut down on 4 June, and replaced with landscapes and still lives from Israel-based collective New Barbizon, who exhibited a message of support for Slonov. The following day the New Barbizon show was also shut down, and the gallery locked and placed under guard.

On 6 June a further exhibition — Sergei Kamenny’s series of protest photographs, Russian Baroque — was closed after being visited by a local minister of culture. Kamenny redrew pictures of Moscow street protests and added baroque motifs with a video projector to symbolize “the power of the government, the nobility and the church.” In this project,” said Kamenny “the emphasis shifted to the victims of police brutality.”

Finally, free-format lecture and discussion project Occupy Perm was also rejected by local officials, largely, it is alleged, because of the opposition politics of its intended curator, Novosibirsk artist and Monstration-founder Artyom Loskutov. “The organisers told me that it’s all cancelled,” he told Kommersant.

Festival curator, Marat Guelman, who has also come under fire for high cost of the event, has moved the prohibited works to his own PERMM gallery. “I don’t want to get involved in this war,” said Guelman. “But after the end of the festival I will meet with the governor and discuss these events with him. If there will be any more attempts at censorship in future from the authorities, then I’ll refuse to work with them.”