Sunday, March 15, 2015
This month we are reading Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot by Masha Gessen. You can get biographical details on the author of this book detailing the history and trials of the Russian art collective Pussy Riot via Wikipedia. This Guardian article, My life as an out gay person in Russia, is a bit dated now, but explains why she felt the need to leave Russia for her family's safety, and gives you a more intimate look at her personal history and motivations.
In addition to the video above from the University of Chicago, I recommend Gessen's audio interview with Fresh Air. Or if you prefer print, Guernica goes deep with her on LGBT rights and the Russian protest movement in general: Gay Propaganda and Russia’s Shrinking Public Space. In more recent news, you might want to catch up with her views on the murder of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov either on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show or in an opinion piece for the New York Times for the New York Times.
Of course a book like this demands a video supplement just for Pussy Riot performances. Open Culture has conveniently assembled the band's more significant videos in one place. There are many post-prison interviews with Nadia and Maria available, but why not go with this one from Amnesty International United Kingdom. Then, if you are a House of Cards fan, you can relive their third season cameo appearance courtesy of Slate. And not to be missed, there is their just-released Ferguson video I Can't Breathe.
For a little more in depth analysis, I like this insight on the punk sensibilities of both Pussy Riot and the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei:
I also found this BBC audio program helpful in understanding why Pussy Riot targeted the Russian Orthodox Chruch: Putin, the Patriarch and Pussy Riot.
Be sure to follow up your Pussy Riot explorations with a look at Amnesty International's human rights concerns in the Russian Federation including the murder of Boris Nemtsov, LGBT rights and take action for the free speech rights of other Russian activists.
Saturday, March 14, 2015
This month we are discussing Masha Gessen's book about the Russian art collective Pussy Riot, Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot. If you want to join in the conversation this Sunday but didn't have time for the book or just want a visual supplement for your reading, you can stream the documentary
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer on Amazon Instant video,
On February 21, 2012, five young women entered the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. In neon-colored dresses, tights, and balaclavas, they performed a “punk prayer” beseeching the “Mother of God” to “get rid of Putin.” They were quickly shut down by security, and in the weeks and months that followed, three of the women were arrested and tried, and two were sentenced to a remote prison colony. But the incident captured international headlines, and footage of it went viral. People across the globe recognized not only a fierce act of political confrontation but also an inspired work of art that, in a time and place saturated with lies, found a new way to speak the truth.
Masha Gessen’s riveting account tells how such a phenomenon came about. Drawing on her exclusive, extensive access to the members of Pussy Riot and their families and associates, she reconstructs the fascinating personal journeys that transformed a group of young women into artists with a shared vision, gave them the courage and imagination to express it unforgettably, and endowed them with the strength to endure the devastating loneliness and isolation that have been the price of their triumph.