Free Pussy Riot, freedom of expression and creative protest

‘We came with what we have and can: with our musical performance.’

Artful understatement from Pussy Riot’s Nadia Tolokonikovoy. For what they ‘have’, and what they ‘can’, is this.

Thanks to them, it’s only a matter of time before I pull on a balaclava and leap on a nearby building. There is something about those women, with their fists in the air, giving out a fluorescent buzz of courage and energy, which inspires me to move, to take action, to be expressive.

I’m far from alone. All over the world, people are being inspired by the three women put on trial for ‘hooliganism’, and their fellow band members. ‘Free Pussy Riot’ is not only a campaign for the release of Maria, Nadezhda and Ekaterina, but a loud and justified exercise in freedom of expression.

There is a sort of deluge of pro-Pussy Riot art of all kinds, from the ambitious to the slapdash, in public and private spaces, from group efforts to individual pieces. Mollycrabapple’s poster design envisions a powerful image of solidarity which legal restrictions would not allow to actually happen. @ameliahmhm, @cmariedaniel and @thleenzo keep in mind the group’s musical method in this striking t-shirt/pin design inspired by a concert poster.

Other artists have used unconventional canvases, including their own bodies, the pavement and even an umbrella. Graffiti – numero uno for protest art – has as ever made its mark.

It’s not just visual art. At a benefit gig for Pussy Riot in Berlin, the crowd gladly endures the sweaty confinement which comes from wearing balaclavas in a mosh pit. However debatably unpleasant this might be, it is a much easier confinement than that experienced by the world’s prisoners of conscience. From wall to wall, Pussy Rioters share an identity (and their personal space).

Their image is ingenious. It is unmissable, unmistakable, and unambiguous. They dare you to be offended by their bold clashes and brash sound. But not every response has been bright and loud. Bluecypress depicts the women in sepia, like the album cover of a sixties feminist folk group. The recently-formed band suddenly seems timeless. And the person who sellotaped two pieces of paper to metal doors, simply stating ‘FREE PUSSY RIOT’ and ‘THIS IS POLITICAL’, uses opportunistic flair to remind us of the bleak reality of incarceration.

The examples go on and on. Some of those I have already described, and more, are over on Pinterest. Elsewhere, Let’s Start a Pussy Riot are collecting submissions of artistic work inspired by the group. They state that the project is to celebrate free expression, challenge injustice, 'form our activism and inform our minds'. Social media everywhere has been hit by a luminous explosion with the hashtag #freepussyriot, as people react instinctively to the obvious injustice.

Nadia has stated that Pussy Riot’s performance in the Cathedral was underpinned by a ‘desperate desire’ to ‘change the political situation in Russia for the better’, and that their ‘emotions and expressiveness came from that desire’. Now many more are animated by that desire, and the results are stunning in their variety and inventiveness.

So why don’t you also bring ‘what [you] have and can’? Draw, play, shout, jump up and down to a beat, speak freely, then share. It’s your right: celebrate it! And don’t forget to support Pussy Riot by text, too.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
View latest posts
0 comments