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Free Pussy Riot

Philippa P.B. HughesBy Philippa P.B. Hughes on Aug 02, 2012 | Add a Comment Add a Comment (353)

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Free Pussy Riot

I participated in a Capital Fringe Festival show called “The Post Reality Show: TALK MEDIA!”. The show’s host and producer Randall Packer asked whether I thought that artists who live in DC have a responsibility to engage with politics and government. My emphatic answer: “No!” The artist’s job is to make art. If it responds to her environment, then that is great, but there is no responsibility to do so.

Randall Packer Interviewing Philippa Hughes from Randall Packer on Vimeo.**

However, I’ve been rethinking this stance since I learned about the arrest of the Russian artists Pussy Riot for performing a punk rock prayer that criticized Vladimir Putin.

Pussy Riot saw that shit was fucked up in their country and they spoke out through their art. For that, three of the Pussy Riot artists Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tokokonnikova, and Ekaterina Samutsevitch were arrested on a charge of “hooliganism” and now face a possible seven year prison sentence. They have been imprisoned since February and have not had any contact with their families or small children. People from around the world have spoken out against this fucked up shit. Amnesty International declared these women “prisoners of conscience.”

As I learned more about the situation, I thought more about my original stance against the responsibility of artists to engage with politics. Why would DC artists have a particular responsibility to engage? (1) Art is an incredibly powerful way to make a statement about fucked up shit in the world, as evidenced by the fact that political leaders often care enough to arrest artists who would make those statements. (2) Artists are inherently observant and therefore in a particularly good position to expose fucked up shit through their art. (3) Artists who choose to live in DC choose to live in a place that the world pays attention to. (4) Artists who choose to live in DC have access to world leaders and to places like the Russian Embassy where they can freely stand on the sidewalk and express their message without getting arrested.

DC artists have a special opportunity to make a particularly powerful impact on world politics and government. However, I still believe that the central job of the artist is to make art. I do not believe that artists have a special responsibility to respond to the political environment any more than the rest of us non-artists. The point is that if any of us sees fucked up shit, we each have a responsibility to do something about it, to speak out, to respond in some way. The imprisonment of the Pussy Riot Three is some seriously fucked up shit and nothing will change if more people don't actively show their support.

 

"Maybe politics is just some kind of bizarre performance art."

Philippa Hughes Interviewing Capital Fringe Festival Artist from Randall Packer on Vimeo.**

*Credit for primary video:  Andrea Collins, artist and activist. More about her work here.

**Credit for videos within the text: The Post Reality Show: TALK MEDIA!, Presented by the Capital Fringe Festival, Created by Randall Packer, http://www.postrealityshow.com

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