Nadya Tolokonnikova – This art causes riots
Dimensions: 20 x 16″
Medium: mixed media
“Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.” ― Bertolt Brecht
In this series, Nadya Tolokonnikova evokes the Utopian ideals of the Russian avant-garde, fusing bold visual elements with thought-provoking narratives to challenge societal norms and envision a more equitable and harmonious future.
Needles and sewing machine parts take center stage as Tolokonnikova harnesses the skills she learned while enduring forced labor during the 2 years she served as a political prisoner in Russian labor camps.
“I incorporate needles and sewing machine parts – they represent my experiences of forced labor in the camp. During that time, I would have dreams of receiving new sets of needles and machine parts, only to wake up to the harsh reality of continuing to sew on old, unsafe equipment. I endured injuries and excruciating pain while sewing, including a traumatic incident where a needle penetrated my finger and caused profuse bleeding, yet I was compelled to persist without proper medical care. The use of red splashes in my artwork represents the blood that stained my work table at the factory. I incorporate teddy bears into my work, penetrating them with needles and presenting them as worn and dirty. The teddy bears encapsulate the innocence and vulnerability I once possessed, now marred and broken by the oppressive forces at play.”
– Nadya Tolokonnikova
“Teddy bears evoke humor and child-like naivete and hope – much needed in order to survive under oppression. Humor was another of the soul’s weapons in the fight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor can afford an aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even if only for a few seconds (Viktor Frankl, “Man’s search for meaning”)”
– Nadya Tolokonnikova
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.