Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia

Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC)

Attack on Pussy Riot, 2014 ©Pussy Riot. Photo: Alexander Sofeev

Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia

October 25, 2023 – March 10, 2024
MAC at Place Ville Marie

The Musée d’art Contemporain de Montréal (MAC) is pleased to present the North American premiere of the acclaimed exhibition Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia from October 25, 2023 to March 10, 2024.

Maria Alyokhina is a Russian artist and political activist. She was co-winner of the 2012 Lennon Ono Grant for Peace and received the Hannah Arendt Prize in 2014. Pussy Riot was awarded the 2023 Woody Guthrie Prize, which honours the spirit of resistance through music, literature, dance, and other art forms. She is the author of Riot Days (2017), which describes her stay in a Russian penal colony following a widely covered show trial in 2012. She is currently working on her second book, as well as performing in the show Riot Days alongside other members of Pussy Riot.

Careful Fragile, 2020 ©Pussy Riot. Photo: Courtesy Pussy Riot

Opening to the public at the MAC’s temporary location at Place Ville Marie on October 25, 2023, this first museum exhibition focuses on Pussy Riot’s artistic protests in Russia, collected by Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina. It presents the group’s non-violent actions over the last decade, as well as the reactions of Putin’s increasingly authoritarian regime.

This project was born of an encounter between Maria Alyokhina and celebrated Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson. Fittingly, the encounter occurred in Moscow. Kjartansson, who curated the original Reykjavik exhibition with Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir and Dorothee Maria Kirch, has described the group’s work as having a “non-consensual relationship with the state.”

Like in a Red Prison, 2013 ©Pussy Riot. Photo: Denis Sinyakov

Pussy Riot gained international attention in 2012 when three of its members (Maria “Masha” Alyokhina, Nadezhda “Nadya” Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina “Kat” Samutsevich) were arrested and sent to remote prison colonies for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after performing a song protesting Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. The case sparked a global outcry and became a symbol of the struggle for free expression and political dissent in Russia.

Guided by the dictum that all protest art should be “desperate, sudden, and joyous,” Pussy Riot has courageously, and with a wry smile, shone a light on the brutal injustices that the Russian state inflicts on its critics. Viewed from Pussy Riot’s perspective, the exhibition provides insight into the evolution of Putin’s Russia over the past ten years, leading up to the brutal war against Ukraine.

The exhibition Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia is organized and circulated by Kling & Bang, Reykjavik.

Punk Prayer, 2012 ©Pussy Riot. Photo: Mitya Aleshkovsky

Exhibition-Related Activities:

To mark the occasion, on October 25 at Le Gesù, a conversation between Ragnar Kjartansson and Maria Alyokhina offers an exclusive glimpse into the exhibition’s genesis and Pussy Riot’s achievements, moderated by MAC Director John Zeppetelli.

The following day, on October 26, Alyokhina will be leading an exhibition walkthrough at MAC Place Ville Marie.

Finally, on November 1, a live performance by Pussy Riot, RIOT DAYS – an activist multimedia experience – at the Rialto Theatre, Montréal, kicks off a North American tour. This concert is co-presented by the MAC and POP Montréal.


Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (MAC)
1 Place Ville Marie, Gallery level
Montréal, Québec H3B 3Y1
T. +1 514 847-6226
www.macm.org

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