Update: Pussy Riot on Putin’s Leadership (and “Leaderless” Activism) on the Colbert Report

The punk rock political activist group, Pussy Riot, came to the US  to share their perspective on the Olympics, after getting international attention for their disruptive, disrespectful protests (a.k.a hooliganism, punishable by imprisonment and forced labor in Putin’s Russia). Or, as they said on the Colbert Report, “We sang a fun song in a church.” In effect, these art activists focused international attention on Putin’s repressive policies by becoming victims of his laws against free speech in public, serving two-year sentences and reporting on prison conditions as Pussy Riot became an international movement.
Outside Russia, it’s easy to wonder about Putin’s abilities as a leader. In addition to repressive social policies that use any excuse for pre-emptively arresting known activists before the Olympics (swearing in public — “petty hooliganism,” for example), Putin has implemented strict policies against gay citizens that are resulting in vigilante violence sanctioned by the regime, referring to being openly gay as “gay extremism.” As an ironic (or perhaps strategically hetero-sexy) counterpoint to homophobia, Putin has reportedly decorated Sochi hotel rooms with topless pictures of himself riding horses and striding down roads dressed in army pants.

for a powerful video about the life-and-death danger of being young and gay in Russia, including an interesting perspective on Pussy Riot’s work,  click here….

from the New Yorker feature on the hotel room art

from the New Yorker feature on the hotel room art

On the Colbert Report, Pussy Riot members said simply, (getting ironic laughs), “We have different ideas about a bright future and we don’t want a shirtless man on a horse leading us there.” They also indicated their activism had shifted to prison reform and freedom for activists still imprisoned in Russia, now that they have been freed to appease Western pressure on Putin. “We’d much rather work on freeing the people who are still in jail for… standing up for freedom, and while this is happening, no PR stunt can fix Russia’s image.”

The activists came to the US as part of a world tour to look at American prisons, to talk with human rights activists, and to perform in activist concerts. “Anyone can be in Pussy Riot,” they said — inspiring Colbert to break character, and don a yellow mask in support of the movement.

It is a desperately important solidarity during the controversies and nationalist stephen-colbert-pussy-riothype of the Sochi Olympics, intentionally staged and advertised as propogandistic leadership, bread and circuses to make Russia look stable, powerful and controlled. But activists like Pussy Riot, and other less dramatic protestors against Putin’s culture wars, demonstrate that even violent state control is limited, when citizens are willing to stand up for their rights, risking their lives in a fluid, “leaderless” movement.

One comment

  1. […] art about leadership, folks, and art AS leadership. Check it […]

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: