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Moscow Fights Civil Disobedience With a Spray Can

Sometime around Feb. 20, a new work of art seemed behind the protective grid of a energy box in central Moscow. In flaming red, yellow and black, the work sketched out the outline of man’s face, with fallen cheeks, dark, accusing eyes and lips sewn close with a coarse thread.

Few of the passers-by satisfied that the image behind the grid was of shock opening artist Pyotr Pavlensky, a man now detained for setting land the doors of the domicile of Russia’s confidence service. After all, in a nation where the Kremlin decides what information Russians receive, Pavlensky is a complete foreigner to all though the initiated.

Perm travel artist Alexander Zhunev, 31, wanted to change that. Speaking to The Moscow Times, he pronounced that his mystic preference to place an iconic mural of Pavlensky behind a metal grid was “an act of solidarity for those who are perplexing to expose the regime’s failings.”

It took 24 hours for police to arrive on the scene, usually to find that Zhunev had sealed the grid with a padlock. In desperation, the policemen resorted to spray cans to paint over Pavlensky’s face by the barrier. Zhunev desired it. A photographer’s picture showed the policemen looking really many like the vandals they were ostensible to be fighting.

Zhunev belongs to a organisation of graffiti and street artists who use Moscow as their board to spread amicable and political messages. They form partial of an subterraneous village dressed in hooded sweatshirts and working underneath cover of darkness. When the sun rises, some lapse to regular bureau jobs — with usually traces of paint underneath their fingernails charity a clue as to their night activities.

The Root of Rebellion

Graffiti had a late start in Russia. Most of the travel artists operative currently began their careers usually in the post-Soviet 1990s. As graffiti enlightenment cleared over from the United States, Russian girl became putrescent with the virus of rebelliousness.

After decades of subordinating to the collective, graffiti supposing a tried and ready approach of demonstrating individuality. Hooded Russian youngsters took to spray-painting suburban trains to declare faithfulness to gangs or football clubs. Groups attempted to outdo any other’s peacock designs, “in the same approach that cats symbol their territory” says the artist Ivan, who belongs to the ArtVandal duo.

A mural by central Moscow’s Prospekt Sakharova depicts a Russian blender containing star-spangled piranhas. The street art is the work of patriotic organisation SET.

From the outset, graffiti artists have ragged the label “deviants” with pride, and one of their many visit targets is the state railway company, Russian Railways. They contend that “train bombing,” as the practice of covering trains in graffiti is known, isn’t usually about the rush of adrenaline. It is also about indirectly targeting the Kremlin, and challenging the status quo.

“It’s a gray morning. You’re hire on the platform. You’re meditative about your job. And then a bright-colored sight shows up, sprayed with difference we can’t read,” says Misha Most, a prominent travel artist. “That impulse could change you. It gives we the idea that the system is optional.”


In the early 2000s a crew of graffiti artists began operative together to cover the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg with the word ZACHEM. In Russian, this translates as “Why?” or “What For?.” Before long, the six-letter word confronted Russians from bridges, roads and central buildings as they went about their daily business.

No one knew what it was about. Some wondered either the word was a criticism of Putin. Others speculated the word was a comment on the (lack of) merits of the structures on which it was sprayed.

One of the founders of the movement, who asked not to be named, pronounced ZACHEM was meant to make Russians rethink what they did in all spheres of life. “We were seeking because people do what they do,” he said. “You have a choice in everything we do: to do or not to do it.”

Many of the initial era of graffiti artists, including those belonging to the ZACHEM crew, went on to enhance their technique, regulating images and sometimes installations, as a simple approach to share their summary with the public.

“I’m not a [Franz] Kafka, we can’t lay and write at a desk. we wish my summary to be heard. That’s because we pull outside,” pronounced travel artist ZOOM.

Perhaps the most famous Russian travel artist is P-183, a young male who gained celebrity in the 2000s with anti-establishment criticism works. In one of his many famous projects, he intoxicated images of Russian demonstration military officers on the doors of a Moscow metro station. Commuters had to push behind on the policemen to continue on their way — a symbolism mislaid on few who gifted the 1991 attempted coup. At the time, P-183 pronounced his idea was to “teach people in this nation to tell lies from the law and bad from good.”

P-183 died several years ago, though his bequest continues in the work of artists like ArtVandal.

Zhunev consecrated his mural of performance artist Pavlensky behind a secure grid in central Moscow.

At the tallness of the Sochi Olympics, ArtVandal intoxicated the capital with an image of five piggy banks in the colors and constellation of the 5 Olympic rings, to protest state spending and corruption. Another work showed a Sochi Olympics branded glove with lifted core finger. ArtVandal had prepared their invulnerability of the square should they get held by the cops: “We would usually contend that it’s a ‘F*ck you’ to the world, not to Russia!” pronounced a laughing Andrei.

Not each travel artist is as explicit. Misha Most, for example, says travel art should concede the passer-by to make adult his or her possess mind on the message. “I don’t wish to be a propagandist for one side or the other,” he said. “I wish to make people think.”

In a work called “Constitution,” he spray-painted the full content of several articles of the Russian Constitution onto walls around Moscow. One of the works reproduced the article on freedom of speech in a plcae usually several hundred meters divided from the Kremlin.

“It reminded everybody — policemen, passers-by, everyone — that this is the constitution,” he said.

A New Entry

Sixteen years after the founding, ZACHEM is still alive — though the city has changed.

When Misha Most, 35, started out, he said, the city’s authorities “could hardly means to put lightbulbs in street lanterns.” So, while non-commissioned graffiti has always been illegal, the city’s response was delayed and uncoordinated.

Today, the authorities are sharper — it takes them a day on average to paint over uninformed travel art or graffiti, though if the image is politically or socially sensitive, they are even quicker.

Those held redhanded can face a fine of up to 40,000 rubles ($524), that is some-more than the average monthly wage. But if the graffiti is political, or can be described as “vandalism” of state infrastructure, a three-year jail judgment comes into play.

More worrying to some, however, is that the authorities have entered the realm of street art on its possess terms. New murals have seemed opposite the city compelling “sober Russia” and healthy lifestyles. In style, they are small opposite to Soviet-era promotion campaigns on good conduct.

Unable to remove the metal barrier, military used mist cans to get by the grid.

But some of the new murals foster sincerely pro-Kremlin domestic messages. Following the annexation of Crimea in March 2014, some walls in the city core were intoxicated with the slogan: “Russia and Crimea — Together for Always.”

As the Russian economy nose-dived, a painted work told Muscovites “there are some-more critical things than the stock market.”

And residents of Moscow’s executive Prospekt Sakharova now demeanour out onto a gigantic picture display a hand hovering over the ON symbol of a blender embellished with the Russian flag. Inside the blender are piranhas in American stars and stripes.

An obscure nationalistic organisation called SET is behind all 3 of the pro-Kremlin murals. When contacted by The Moscow Times, SET declined a request to comment, though a statement on the group’s website pronounced the painting of the blender was a “metaphor for the world.”

For many travel artists, the new activity is a sign that pro-Kremlin movements are regulating travel art to further their possess agenda. “We’re streamer to a indicate where Putin will demeanour down on us from every building,” pronounced Andrei, 27, of the ArtVandal duo.

The introduction of large sums of money into the travel art stage has put the community on alert, and led to deep division. Many of the painters who are consecrated by City Hall and commercial clients once belonged to the subterraneous graffiti scene. Some of their friends now credit them of hypocrisy for “train bombing” at night and working for the supervision during the day.

Misha Most says that by employing former bootleg travel artists, city authorities have also gained energy over the community. “One of the best ways of neutralizing the street art village is to put it into a haven and control it from there,” he said.

With income to be finished from legal art, and authorities stepping adult their game, there are fewer and fewer incentives for executing bootleg art in Moscow. But that has not stopped a generation of graffiti artists from coming to the fore.

Fyodor Korotayev who heads the city’s amenities investigation service, told The Moscow Times his dialect had already available 300 instances of illegal graffiti in the initial dual months of the year. Most of it is being finished by young teenagers.

For the subterraneous stage this is good news. “Russia has many vacant walls,” says ArtVandal’s Ivan.

Out of all the remaining vacant walls in Moscow, there is one that would be “perfect” for painting, his messenger Andrei said — the pristine white ones of the White House, the main chair of the Russian government. 

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/560579.html