Anyone who follows street artists such as American ABOVE, collective AVANT, Dutchman Ces53, Englishman Bansky, Australians Ha-Ha and Dlux, or Canadians Esm-artificial and Posterchild will be pleased to note that Russia has joined the masses of Westerners who have been producing, both legally and illegally, public art for decades.
Street art, for the uninitiated, is not just graffiti, but includes posters, wheatpasting, stickers, and anything else of an artistic nature produced in public space; this would include performance art such as flash mobbing or art interventions. The point is to display art away from the museums and galleries and put it in the face of the people on the street.
Although common in the West, Russia has yet to produce an international caliber street artist or collective. That is until Voina came into existence back in 2007. Even then they weren’t noticed much outside the areas they performed in until one morning in June 2010, people woke in St. Petersburg to a large penis drawn on the Liteiny Bridge.
Called Dick Captured by KGB by the group, it was a vulgar piece of art, a political statement, and a 213 foot tall “fuck you” to the FSB (Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation) whose offices were nearby.
The bridge, when drawn to let ships pass, would show the penis slowly becoming erect and tell in visual form what the collective thought of Russia’s secret service. That the movement of the bridge was used as an integral part of the piece was hilarious.
According to Free Voina (free-voina.org), a website in support of the Russian radical art collective:
Voina is a Russian art collective that engages in street action art. It is a movement in contemporary art that is relatively new to Russia despite being widespread in the West and regarded by critics as one of the most valuable contemporary art movements.
The group was created on February 23, 2007, with the aim of developing monumental patriotic street art in Russia. The group’s idol was, and forever will be, the great Russian artist Dmitri Prigov. Voina currently counts over 200 members who perform actions in its name, sometimes without informing the rest of the group…
Other pieces the collective have performed are:
It’s Time to Whip Russian Art – a public flogging of a man dressed in white lying on a white sheet with an S&M whip dipped in red paint.
Fuck for the Heir, Medvedev’s Little Bear! – a group orgy at Moscow’s Biological museum.
The Plan of Putin – sending live sheep down a slide made from an election banner that read “Moscow Votes Putin.”
Palace Revolution – turning over police cars.
In Memory of the Decemberists, A Present to Yuri Luzhkov – a mock public hanging of two gay men and three immigrant workers in a busy supermarket.