And another thing, Mr Putin! Agitart on the streets of Moscow.
I’ve been struggling to keep up with my twitter account for the last few months. The flurry of internet activity resulting from the outcry over parliamentary elections fraud last year on 4 December has continued up to and beyond the recent presidential elections on 4 March 2012.
Cynics might say that election rigging here is nothing new, and could ostensibly, be practiced by a party other than United Russia (the current ruling party), but the December scandal, mostly triggered by video evidence and observer reports which were eagerly consumed by those glued to their computers, seemed to tap into lingering discontent with Putin, United Russia and Putin and Medvedev’s bizarre game of president/prime minister musical chairs, plus the endemic corruption and cronyism that many believe the current system feeds. This discontent which was previously restricted to a bit of grumbling in kitchens amongst friends, is now is being reflected in civic activism and a definite push (amongst, admittedly, a vocal minority) to challenge the stranglehold that United Russia and Putin have held over national and regional politics for so long.
Whilst there were small, energetic protests in towns like Perm, Novosibirsk and even Vladivostok, the protest movement clearly has its largest momentum in the capital – Moscow (followed by St Petersburg). As the press has reported, many of the attendees are in fact middle class and a fair amount are under 35. United Russia and Putin supporters often deride the protests as a ‘trend’ and are fond of labelling the opposition as being “well-to-do, ipad toting” hipsters.
Certainly, a certain amount of media interest has been generated by the witty slogans and handmade posters that the opposition members create. Napolean Bonaparte once said that a revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets, and in opposition’s case these seem to be their memorable slogans and images that are photographed and then rapidly transmitted around the world. These are in stark contrast to the mass-produced, and fairly unconvincing signs and badges toted by the government funded youth-movement, Nashi, for their pro-Putin marches.
I’ve been at a fair few of the protests and chuckled at some of the ingenious slogans or imagery that people must have stayed up all night making. Mikhail Ratguaz, the deputy editor of the arts/culture portal OPENSPACE.RU, has taken it one step further, and curated an exhibition “You can’t even imagine us”, which opened recently at the ARTPLAY design centre in Moscow. Moscovites were asked to bring in any posters, banners or similar they’d created for the protests and the result was over 250 works on display. Mikhail talks about the exhibition as a way to celebrate the individual in a sea of faces, particularly at a time when opposition members are accused of being “cattle”, motivated by pack mentality:
“This winter, people talked with the authorities not only in the language of massive public protests, but also in the language of posters – the energy of the group was mixed with the energy of the individual… The poster, a piece of paper attached to a stick, was one of the main tools of differentiation from the crowd. In the posters we’ve seen this winter, aggression was not valued, whereas wit was… A crowd can not be witty, whereas a single person can be.”
by SUSIE GARDEN
[Susie Garden aka Strafe, is our newest contributor. Originally hailing from Australia, she was involved in the thriving Melbourne street-art scene before throwing it all in and moving to Moscow, Russia in 2007. She now divides her time between teaching English at the British Higher School of Art and Design in Moscow, honing her Russian skills and drawing. For No New Enemies she will be writing about the Eastern-European art scene.]