One of the biggest ever exhibitions of Russian resistance art is now on show in the northern Swedish town of Boden, featuring over 40 Russian artists covering five decades of protest art from the 1970s to the present day. The exhibition’s title, Pussy Riot and the Cossacks, takes inspiration from the events which took place during the Sochi Olympic Games, which saw two members of punk rock group Pussy Riot attacked with whips by a group of self-proclaimed Cossacks as they prepared for a performance. The exhibition is housed in an expansive former military building and features paintings, photographs, slideshows and sculptures, including big names from Russia’s underground art world like performance artist Vladislav Mamyshev-Monroe, photographer Igor Mukhin and activist group Voina.
The starting point of the show is 1970s Sots-Art – an art movement developed early in the decade as a reaction to the official aesthetic doctrine of Socialist Realism – which is represented in the exhibition by pioneering Sots Artists Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid. Charting each decade of underground art with the creations of those who came to define each era, the exhibition ends with images of Pussy Riot, who provide a poetic close to the exhibition. The host institution, Havremagasinet Art Centre, is well known for privileging artwork dealing with themes such as democracy, human rights and freedom of speech.
The exhibition’s curator, former head of the Tretyakov Gallery’s department of current trends Andrei Erofeev, has earned a reputation for curating controversial exhibitions and has previously been targeted by Russian authorities for putting on art shows accused of inciting religious hatred. His 2007 exhibition Forbidden Art - 2006, curated together with Yuri Samodurov, showed pictures depicting scenes of Christian worshippers praying to Mickey Mouse which incensed right-wing nationalist activists. Their appeal to the Moscow prosecutor’s office that they investigate the show and its curators ended with Erofeeev and Samodurov being convicted and fined 150,000 roubles ($4,862) and 200,000 roubles ($6,483) respectively.
The exhibition runs until 28 September.