Bill Posters goes big in Manchester as he joins the Upper Space…
Upper Space has been following the work of UK guerilla artist Bill Posters for a while now and we are pleased to announce that Bill is now part of the crew and to celebrate he went big in a spot in Manchester with a new install in solidarity and support of Pussy Riot…
Odds are you’ve heard of Pussy Riot. They’re an anonymous feminist punk band from Russia with openly anti-Putin lyrics who refuse to play in normal venues and seek to bring down the Russian government. They formed last September after Putin announced he’d stand again for the presidency in March 2012—a scary prospect for many since poverty, terror attacks, corruption, and the loss of civil rights have been the hallmarks of his reign at the Kremlin.
Three members of the band were found guilty of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred and sentenced to two years in a prison colony in August. Hundreds of people, many wearing Pussy Riot T-shirts and the symbolic multicoloured balaclavas, gathered outside the court to protest against the verdict. As news spread across the world about the prison sentences, people from around the world rose up in support.
One of the band members, Yekaterina Samutsevich has been released from prison however the two members that are still in prison are serving out there time in remote prison camps far away from home.
Pussy Riot is a collective identity; the need for the women to cover their faces indicative of the hostile treatment they’ve received from Moscow’s authorities.
In Pussy Riot’s own words:
“one of the reasons we choose to always wear balaclavas [is that] new members can join the bunch and it does not really matter who takes part in the next act – there can be three of us or eight, like in our last gig on the Red Square, or even 15.”
Pussy Riot & The Church:
Since the band came together in September last year, Pussy Riot has performed impromptu gigs in public places ranging from Moscow buses and Metro stations, to the symbolic Red Square. But it was their February performance of ‘Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin’ in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral that led to their arrest. The song calls on the Virgin Mother to embrace feminism, shun Putin, and cut ties between the state and the church.
Pussy Riot & The State:
Pussy Riot have a legitimate right to freely criticise their government. International human rights law absolutely outlaws restrictions on free speech when they are based purely on the notion that others may find the content offensive, but in Russia, the state and the church are not about to let a group of masked young women go free for challenging their dominance and control of the Russian people. Vladimir Putin has developed his own particular brand of authoritative politics by putting his 16 years of KGB experience into full effect. Putinism has seen many opposition activists and politicians silenced for dissent including Maxim Luzyanin, an opposition activist who received a 4 and a half year jail sentence last week. Taisiya Osipova, a 28 year old female political activist was also sentenced to 8 and a half years for drugs charges that many believe were fabricated.
Pussy Riot & Copyright:
In the last week we have been receiving disturbing reports that there is a battle underway for control of Pussy Riot ™. Nobody legally owns the ‘Pussy Riot’ name, but taking the kinds of risks that the band members have taken and the restrictions to their civil liberties that they are experiencing now is apparently not enough. Apparently you need to be protecting the brand as well…
Take the band’s lawyer Mark Fagan, yeah that’s right, Fagan… he has tried to copyright the Pussy Riot name through his wife’s company which has led to many of the band members and their crew thinking that steps are being taken without their knowledge and consent. Fagan has claimed he was trying to protect the name for the band and wasn’t motivated by personal gain but with a name like Fagan and without consulting anyone about it, it doesn’t look good.
Meanwhile downtown… we get to see Pussy Riot merchandise being sold all over the place with very little going to support the band and help cover their legal fees. This is a stark reminder that anything creative that challenges order and control of expression by artists that utilise self expression as a purely creative force is somehow always commodified and sold back to us, in neat little packages. We have seen this kind of commodification before with various sub cultures in history – Punk is a prime example. It is crucial that we remember what these women did in the face of incredible risks and if you pick up a t-shirt down the market, respect what has been sacrificed and rep it right with a quick impromptu gig down the Catholic church on your way home. I hear grans knit sick wooly balaclavas for christmas…
If you live in Manchester, you can discover the artwork by checking this google map:
You can support Pussy Riot by doing the following:
1) Follow them on twitter here.
2) Support the two ladies in prison and the rest of the band via Amnesty International here.
3) Buy a balaclava (the brighter colour the better, bobble optional but recommended).
4) Put on your sunday best, head down the church picking up a Pussy Riot t-shirt on the way that will see profits going to support the band.
5) Get ballied up!