Thursday, December 15, 2011

Vonia solidarity protest movement spreads through European capitals

Voina Wanted banner of imprisoned art activist Oleg Vorotnikov (Vor) unfurled on Charles Bridge in Prague Photograph by Yana Sarna
“Voina Wanted”  worldwide solidarity action by the Voina Group for the persecuted artist and group member Oleg Vorotnikov, who is now wanted by the Russian FSB (think KGB) and Interpol, reached Paris recently.

In Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Prague, local governments, citizens, artists and contemporary art museums and curators actively support freeing Voina Group political dissidents and art activists from criminal repression.

The protest art action started on 21 Sept. 2011 in Vienna with the support of Sydney Ogidan (independent curator and director of the Black River Festival), Brad Downey (artist), Wolfgang Stranzinger (president of Lomographische AG), Gerald Matt (director of Kunsthalle Wien), Catherine Hug (curator of Kunsthalle Wien).

Free Voina mega posters—a Voina Group action—aims to dramatize more than 18 months of active persecution of key players in Voina, most on the run, in hiding in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

The Kremlin´s campaign to stamp out these annoying performance art activists has gained momentum since 4 October when Voina attacked the 4th Moscow Biennale and arts establishment, urging a boycott.

Voina Group, founded in 2005 in Moscow, won the 2011 Innovation Award for Contemporary Art (first place) in Russia, awarded by a jury in January this year--approved by the Ministry of Culture--for giving a massive “fuck-you” metaphor, a 65-metre phallus painted on a draw bridge, which when drawn erect, produced a clear and unequivocal message to the headquarters of the FSB in St. Petersburg, successors to the KGB.

Vladimir Putin is an ex-Lt. Col. of the KGB. Imagine his angst at hearing a Russian jury awarded its highest contemporary art award to a nasty bunch of political dissidents who just gave him the finger?

These Free Voina solidarity protests started on 21 Sept. 2011 in Vienna with the support of Sydney Ojidan (independent curator and director of the Black River Festival), Brad Downey (artist), Wofgang Stranzinger (president of Lomographicsche AG), Gerald Matt (director of Kunsthalle Wien), Catherine Hug (curator of Kunsthalle Wien).

Prague´s artists and its mayor joined with Voina Group staging a visual protest action against Russia´s renewed repression of the art activists.

On 3 November, Voina activists Alexei Plutser-Sarno and Yana Sarna helped lead the action, starting at the Charles Bridge in the Czech capital.

They and others hung a "VOINA WANTED" banner (6x8 m) with Oleg Vorotnikov's portrait in jail from the bridge and on the facades of the Center of Contemporary Art DOX and the National Museum on the Wenceslas Square. 

Russian police put Vorotnikov on the international wanted (Interpol) list; his co-founder Natalia Sokol is currently wanted by the police country-wide in Russia. 

Czech artists join Voina to protest repression of Russian dissident artists on Charles Bridge, Prague Photograph by Yana Sarna
Authorities during the last days of the 4th Moscow Biennale, which closed 30 October, announced it dropped its criminal case against Leonid Nikolayev.

Fewer than five days later, police reinstated criminal charges against Voina activists for hooliganism motivated by hatred towards a "social group," in this case, the police, all committed allegedly through conspiracy.

This carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison.

Voina Wanted unfurled on Charles Bridge, Prague Photograph by Yana Sarna
Prague Mayor Bohuslav Svoboda announced his support for the action against Russian authorities by instructing that “VOINA WANTED” banners should be placed on city light standards, in the metro and other Prague public spaces.

Others supporting the Prague protest include: Zuzana Stefkova, Petr Motycka, Markéta Dolejąová (ARTWALL gallery); Filip Remunda and Marek Hovorka (Jihlava Documentary International Film Festival); Leos Valka (director of the Center of Contemporary Art DOX); Tamara Moyzses (independent curator); Dimitri Volchek (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Here are images, courtesy of the Free Voina website:

16 Nov. 2011

Oleg Vorotnikov (Vor) adorning the Palace of Justice in Brussels 

 [Photo - Brad Downey with the help of Matthias Hübner and Yann Leguay, Voina Group activists. Initiator of the action - Alexei Plutser-Sarno , Voina Group media-artist. Portrait of Oleg Vorotnikov in the courtroom  by Vladimir Telegin.]

18 Nov. 2011

Vor in Paris, Pont Neuf Bridge
Paris cop examining the VOINA WANTED banner
In the background on the left there is Musée du Louvre, on the right - an equestrian statue of Henri IV, famous for supporting the arts

Rock on and practice peace and love.

"When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will be at peace." Jimmy Hendrix 

Stefan, the ArtTraveler(TM).

This is what you might run into walking in our mountains, an ancient olive tree. Do you see the strong, handsome if not grotesque face in the tree? (Photograph by Stefan van Drake 2007).

Consider a walking vacation in our Andalusian mountains or a week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop. See: and

Maurizio Cattelan's telling hand, left, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, Ca.,

ArtTraveler notes:

After living at the Hotel Queen Mary in Budapest (3.5 stars), I heartily recommend it: old on the outside, otherwise totally modern (26 rooms); 

The owner and staff are affable and speak English and German. Tel: 0036-1-413-3510;;

Actions of VOINA

  • Action “Dick captured by KGB”. 14 June 2010.  This acton had been made to assert the power of unconquerable Russian phallus. Video, Photo , Copie of deleted reportage
  • Action “Crazy Lenya is our President!” 22 May 2010. Action with demand to deprive cars with special blue signal flashers of rights to break the regulations of road traffic roughly. Video, Reportage with word of Lenya, Photо
  • Action “Concert in courtroom”. 29 May 2009. Action with demand to stop criminal prosecution of Andrey Erofeev and Jury Samodurov and to stop all criminal cases against Russian art-community, initiated by right-wing radicals. Reportage, Video, Photo
  • Action “Banning of clubs”. 28 December 2008. New Year`s gift of group to all Russians. Reportage, Video, Photo
  • Action “Storm of White House”. 7 November 2008. This action in anniversary of Great October Revolution. Reportage, Video, Photo
  • Action “In memory of Decembrists”. 7 September 2008. Dramatized “execution” in city holiday of Moscow.  Action expressed distrust to Yury Luzhkov`s policy. ReportageVideo, Photо
  • Action “Censorship SUX”. 22 May 2008. Action in defense of social art, the main school in contemporary art. Reportage, Video, Photo
  •  Action “Upbringing of cop in his house”. Action-congratulation of president in day of inauguration. Group had been hanging portraits of new president in police departments. Video, 1 part, Video, 2 part, Photo, Reportage
  • Action “F*ck for the heir – Medved`s little Bear!” 29 February 2008. “Magical” action. Video, Reportage, Photo
  • Action “Monument to Prigov”. 28 November 2007. Action in Central House of Artist, dedicated to the late D.A. Prigov. Video, Photo
  • Action “Feast”. 24 August 2007.  Funeral feast in memory of D.A. Prigov. Video
  • Action “Mordovian Hour”. 1 May 2007.  Action-congratulation of all working people with May Day.  Also action went off in token of animal protection. Photo

Goals and objectives of  the Art-Group Voina in the period 2008-2010

  1. Rebirth of heroical behavioral ideals of an artist-intellectual, in a manner of Russian libertarian decemberism. Creation of image of artist as romantic hero, who prevail over the evil. Creation of lively romantic models in today`s soulless commercial conceptual art.
  2. Rebirth of lively expressive art, which is sincere and honest and provoking observers` deep emotional experience. Actualization  of monumental expressive genres, where large scale harmonizes with totally rich in content orientation, in contrast to outdated hypertrophy of forms, which deovid of sense.
  3. Creation of innovative topical art-language, which is producing for pure art, but not for a money. It is mean language, which is adequate for today’s cultural and socio-political context, which is can show actual of the new epoch, which have no analogues in the past. Creation of Russian national actual art, without outmodedness and provinciality, and which provokes admiration of intellectuals all over the world.
  4. Rebirth of Russian laughing culture, traditions of absurdity and sarcasm in context of high art, that is Rebirth of lively merriment in the art-spaces. Creation of political street-art in Russia in the best traditions of skomorokh and carnival middle-age art.
  5. Conceptual destruction of glamour timeserving and conformist Russian art-market, which is reproducing outdated forms of art, artificially falsifying processes of pricing of art-market and creating financial pyramid from devalued art-junk.
  6. Creating of real left front of art in Russia in traditions of futurism of 1920 years, which is radically shift all ideological poles by the facts of its being. Rebirth of political protest art all over the world.
  7.  War with “werewolfes in straps” for the freedom of contemporary art. War with socio-political obscurantism and ultra-right reaction for the triumph of nano-modernization in Russia. Subversion and destruction of outdated repressive-patriarchal socio-political symbols and ideologies. Art-war against all global world for total triumph of justice in Art-Area.

Yulia Tikhonova. ‘Voina in a Company of Pranksters’
Yulia Tikhonova. ‘Innovation Prize, Moscow 2011’

For a longer list of publications see here:

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