Nadya Tolokonnikova – Knife Play (Pink 08)
Dimensions: 20 x 16″
Medium: mixed media
Nadya Tolokonnikova is known internationally as the founder of the Russian feminist activist group Pussy Riot. She has instigated some of the most significant actions of social justice against Russian tyranny, including Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow. Tolokonnikova was subsequently imprisoned in Siberia, where she was forced to sew Russian army uniforms. In true Tolokonnikova form, she used the sewing skills the regime forced her to learn against them, by creating her own anti-Putin artworks (such as this one) using these same skills. The resulting Putin’s Ashes artworks put Tolokonnikova on the international art world map as her first collectible museum and gallery artworks. They also earned her a Russian arrest warrant and a spot on Putin’s most wanted list. The art historical and political significance of these works is profound.
From the two years she spent in prison, Tolokonnikova learned the desperation prisoners can feel due to the deprivation of necessities and oppression. Shivs are objects prisoners craft from rudimentary materials they can find on hand, for uses as everyday tools or as weapons. Tolokonnikova used metal from jails to craft these knives, feminizing and humanizing them with elements such as ribbon, plastic flatware, and toothbrushes and combs. The dangerous potential of these sharp metal objects stands in stark contrast to the “feminine” color and material associations of their brocade mounts and Tolokonnikova’s signature furry frames, created using sewing skills she learned in prison as she was forced to sew Russian military uniforms.