Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer for Freedom

Punk as Protest: Join the Party

Pussy Riot’s punk is pure protest. They don’t need a publicist or a record label or a booking agent. Nothing is for sale.

Pussy Riot is a non-commercial venture. They play unsanctioned shows exclusively — they don’t play rock clubs, they don’t tour. They exist outside of commodity exchange. They are not a part of the entertainment-industrial complex. They are on a heroic mission to speak truth to power.

Pussy Riot doesn’t need the radio. Their music is the soundtrack of radical feminist action. Video footage shows them seizing control of territory that doesn’t belong to them — the roof of a detention center, the subway, a fashion boutique, Red Square, the biggest cathedral in Moscow — obliterating the line between private property and public space. Upon taking over, they perform their songs on the world stage.

Before Pussy Riot members were jailed, they were confident that the struggle would continue: “We have nothing to worry about, because if the repressive Putinist police crooks throw one of us in prison, five, ten, fifteen more girls will put on colorful balaclavas and continue the fight against their symbols of power.”

Pussy Riot started in Moscow but chapters are forming all over the world in response to group members’ unjust imprisonment and continued state harassment. In the age of the archive, Pussy Riot propels punk into the twenty-first century, presenting a new model for the creation of a culture of protest outside of capitalism.

Put on a balaclava, pick up a guitar, and hit the streets. Take over a government building, a defense plant, a shopping mall, and make your voice heard. Document your action to participate in the conversation and show your solidarity with Nadezhda, Yekaterina, and Maria. We are all Pussy Riot.

-Tobi Vail

 

(Excerpted from the book Pussy Riot! A Punk Prayer for Freedom published by The Feminist Press. On February 21, 2012, five members of a Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot staged a performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. Dressed in brightly colored tights and balaclavas, they performed their “Punk Prayer” asking the Virgin Mary to drive out Russian president Vladimir Putin from the church. After just forty seconds, they were chased out by security. Once a retooled video of the events circulated on YouTube (edited to seem much longer than the actual performance), the state was riled into action. Three members of the collective, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich, known as Masha, Nadya, and Katya, were arrested and charged with felony hooliganism motivated by religious hatred, an offense carrying a sentence of up to seven years. As their trial unfolded, these young women became global feminist icons, garnering the attention and support of activists and artists around the world, including Madonna, Paul McCartney, and Sting, as well as contributors to this book: Yoko Ono, Johanna Fateman, Karen Finley, Justin Vivian Bond, Eileen Myles, and JD Samson. The Internet exploded with petitions, music videos, and calls to action, and as the guilty verdict was anticipated, Pussy Riot responded with articulate, unwavering courtroom statements, calling for freedom of expression, an end to economic and gender oppression, and a separation of church and state. They were sentenced to two years in prison, and inspired a global movement. Collected here are the words that roused the world.)

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