Pussy Riot, Like in a Red Prison, 2013 / Photo Denis Sinyakov
Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia
Oct 25, 2023 – Mar 10, 2024
MAC / Musée d’art contemporain of Montreal
Montreal, Canada

The exhibition focuses on Pussy Riot’s artistic protests in Russia, collected by Pussy Riot member Maria Alyokhina, and it is curated by Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir, Ragnar Kjartansson and Dorothée Kirch, with John Zeppetelli and Marjolaine Labelle for the presentation at the MAC.

The performances, music, and videos created by the feminist punk art collective Pussy Riot, formed in Moscow in 2011, are characterized by provocative and politically charged lyrics and actions. 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 citizens through political imprisonment, arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial executions, mysterious poisonings, aggressive surveillance, and other means of suppressing critical voices.

Velvet Terrorism: Pussy Riot’s Russia, Pussy Riot’s first survey exhibition, was initially presented at Kling & Bang, an artist run space in Reykjavik. The exhibition documents Pussy Riot actions, street activism and the repressive Russian context in which they take place. It was an encounter in Moscow between Maria “Masha” Alyokhina and Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson that led to this project. Kjartansson, who curated the Reykjavik exhibition with Ingibjörg Sigurjónsdóttir and Dorothée Kirch, has described the group’s work as having a “non-consensual relationship with the state.” Indeed, Pussy Riot has used the police state’s apparatus of repression and authoritarianism as a creative partner, engaging in an uneasy “dance with the devil.”

Maria Alyokhina is a Russian artist and political activist. 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. The Pussy Riot collective is the recipient 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.