Impressions of the Year

Last year was an important one for Russian society and our community
of street artists. This is a list of the ten most interesting projects, artists
and events of 2012.

 

People's Creativity and Ingenuity


A DIY ramp found in the streets of Moscow.

The idea of 'partizaning' is that there is no boundary between art and real life, artist and spectator. We were really impressed to see people's creativity in situations where typical things are not allowed, and legal ways of problem solving don't work.

During last year’s protests, we noticed hundreds of the coolest, smartest and funniest posters, stencils and pictures, as well as direct actions by ordinary people who do not see themselves as artists or activists.

 

 

P183's Rise to Fame

After sensational articles in the British Guardian, media from around the world started to write about 'Russian Banksy,' making up facts in support of their stories.

The sad part is that people and the media in Russia only started to notice this unique artist—who had been creating artworks in the city for the last 15 years—after foreign
media outlets created an unfair comparison.

Theses events began a discussion about Western perceptions of Russia, the portrayal of Russian art by the media, and how this influences the perception of people in Russia—that everything happening here is unoriginal and imported from abroad. And the idea that things are only seen as valuable as a part of a global trend, but not as something local.

 

The Buzz about Pussy Riot

Monument to Belorussian partizans in Moscow metro.

Punk-rock and feminist band Pussy Riot became infamous for their political opposition to Russia’s patriarchal and 'dictatorial regime.' Their performance turned into a symbolic act
protesting corruption and the merging of church and state.

While we strongly support tolerance, free speech and the idea of creatively occupying public spaces, we think it is problematic to look at the situation in Russia as black and white, particularly with something as sensational as this performance. What is happening in Russia is not simple to begin with.

But again, the media turned them into heroes and sensationalized what they did, rather
than thoughtfully discussing what this group of female performers really advocates—queer and LGBT rights.

Instead, just like with Russian Banksy, the discussion of their protest and artistic expression was not seriously or thoughtfully considered. They were just sensationalized and people simplified the situation in Russia either to the point of making fun of it, or expressing it only as an extreme, or simply misinterpreting it for the sake of their audiences and contexts.

 

Occupy Abai


An intervention by activists in Chistie Prudie, the site of Occupy Abai and where millions of Roubles were spent to overturn the green spaces. The public was invited to plant flowers and tweet their collective action. 

Occupying the square in front of Abai Kunanbaev's statue on Chistie Prudie boulevard was not just simply the first materialization of the global 'occupy' trend in Russia; it was a great example of self-organization. People realized that they could not and did not need to rely on leaders to express themselves or represent their opinion. And so they began to take part in an international system of horizontal consensus and decision-making.

Occupy Abai is an example of the expansion of anti-autocratic methods—assemblies, discussions, educational programs, and just experience of being together for a long time in the same public space—which gave a new push to young leftist activists who have since decided to share these ideas in their cities, districts and fields of interests.

Even more interesting, however, was that this manifestation of social and political expression began to highlight a movement of people's 'right to the city' through their acts of daily living.

 

Hundreds of New Artworks and Initiatives by Kirill Kto

Photograph by Egor Rogalev.

Kirill Kto is unarguably the most active and vocal street artist in Moscow. As soon as he is back in the city, or in a new district, you find his thoughts, sayings and drawings everywhere. Last year, Kirill made banners for Occupy Abai's protest gatherings, posters for our bulletin, and wrote hundreds of statements on the streets of Moscow. His non-stop interventions have made him one of the most influential street artists in the country, and a well-known anti-car and anti-capitalist activist in his district.

 

Homer's Ad-Busting

After being criticized for excessive cooperation with galleries at the expense of his street art, our favorite Ukranian artist—Sasha Kurmaz aka Homer—responded with a series of amazing ad-busting artworks. He also created a wonderful layer at our side project The Wall in Moscow, which inspired a series of Partizaning interventions in the city.

 

Political Art by Tima Radya

We are really pleased to see the evolution of Ekaterinburg-based Tima Radya's work. He has actively responded to our ideas of the social turn in street art (or partizaning). But perhaps his most memorable interventions and street performances are his reflections on the political situation in Russia—the falsification of elections and the country's precarious stability. We can't wait to see what he does in 2013.

 

0331c

Street artist 0331c is quickly gaining popularity because of his interesting and multifaceted works. We are planning to keep an eye on his activities, and are working on a couple of articles about his projects. These include performances around Moscow's Ring Road and an upcoming exhibition of his porcelain sculptures. His coolest works last year were simple, but beautiful, made using a fire extinguisher.

 

Partizaning's May Interventions

Our series of unsanctioned interventions like DIY-benches, cycling navigation and public mailboxes were all received in different ways, but nonetheless were extremely provocative and engaging in each district. All of these activities were done as part of Delai Sam marathon, and were successfully shown during our first exhibition in Russia - 'Sobyanin, Baby C'mon!'.

 

The DIY-playground by Andrei Salnikov

Andrei Salnikov created one of the coolest playgrounds in the city (on a street called Partizanskaya!) for kids in his neighborhood. This DIY playground became famous after local authorities decided to demolish it. At the end of the year, after a lot of online support, Andrei received a prestigious award from the Moscow News as 'citizen of the year'.

Featured image by Rina Ray