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Putin's Ashes / Pussy Riot / Jeffrey Deitch


Putin's Ashes

Pussy Riot

Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles

January 27–February 4, 2023


Pussy Riot brought its radical performance art to Jeffrey Deitch's Los Angeles gallery and invited everyone to join their protest against the authoritarian leader of Russia who started the biggest war in Europe since World War II. For the first time, Pussy Riot showed their political performance art at a gallery in Los Angeles.


Putin's Ashes was initiated in August 2022 when Pussy Riot burned a 10 x 10 foot portrait of the Russian president, performed rituals and cast spells aimed to chase Putin away. Twelve women participated in the performance. In order to join, women were required to experience acute hatred and resentment towards the Russian president. Most of the participants were either Ukrainian, Belarusian or Russian.


Pussy Riot's founding member Nadya Tolokonnikova bottled the ashes of the burnt portrait and incorporated them into her objects that were presented alongside her short art film, Putin's Ashes, directed, edited and scored by Tolokonnikova. Visitors saw the trailer video for Putin's Ashes during the exhibition.


"While working with artifacts, bottling ashes, and manufacturing the faux furry frames for the bottles, I used skills that I learned in the sweatshops of my penal colony. I was forced to sew police and army uniforms in a Russian jail. I turned what I learned in my labor camp against those who locked me up. Putin was a danger to the whole world and he had to be stopped immediately," said Tolokonnikova during the exhibition.


Conceptual performance artist and activist Nadya Tolokonnikova is the founding member of Pussy Riot, a global feminist protest art movement. Today, hundreds of people identify as part of the Pussy Riot community.


In 2012, Tolokonnikova was sentenced to two years imprisonment following an anti-Putin performance. Tolokonnikova went through a hunger strike protesting savage prison conditions and ended up being sent far away to a Siberian penal colony, where she managed to maintain her artistic activity and with her prison punk band made a tour around Siberian labor camps.


Tolokonnikova published a book Read and riot: Pussy Riot's guide to activism in 2018. Tolokonnikova is a co-founder of independent news service and media outlet Mediazona. She has spoken before the United States Congress, British Parliament, European Parliament and appeared as herself on season 3 of House of Cards.


Pussy Riot's Punk-prayer was named by The Guardian among the best art pieces of the 21st century ("feminist, explicitly anti-Putin, protesting the banning of gay pride and the Orthodox church’s support of the president"). The movement has collaborated with Bansky on his Dismaland exhibition, was endorsed by Marina Abramovic and Ai Weiwei and has created an immersive experience at Saatchi Art Gallery in London.


During the exhibition, guests were only admitted on a 'one out', 'one in' basis, and on the opening night, only people in balaclavas were granted entry. Balaclavas were provided at the gallery entrance, and guests were encouraged to bring their own balaclavas. There was an event overflow line to accommodate attendees.


If you're interested in learning more about Pussy Riot and their work, you can follow them on Instagram at http://www.instagram.com/nadyariot and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/pussyrrriot. You can also visit their independent news outlet at https://zona.media/.

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