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Pussy Riot’s New Immersive Theater Project Will Show You What Russian Prison Is Really Like

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This post was curated for an article written by Caroline Goldstein for ArtNet

Pussy Riot wants you to know how it feels to be locked in a Russian prison, and they’re turning to the theater to make it happen. Russia’s best-known feminist punk band and art collective is embarking on a six-week immersive theater experience called Inside Pussy Riot at the Saatchi Gallery in London.

After spending almost two years inside of a Russian prison for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” over a performance in Moscow Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Pussy Riot member and conceptual artist Nadya Tolokonnikova turned her attention to the intersections of art, social justice, and prison reform.

“We’ve done illegal actions,” she told artnet News, “and we’ll do more, but we’ve decided to explore another way to involve the audience.” The new theater production, created with the London-based company Les Enfants Terribles, expands on her 2016 speech at Art Basel in Miami in which she encouraged viewers to “find or create alternatives” to conventional modes of art interaction.

While protest-led activism is Pussy Riot’s raison d’être, Tolokonnikova was involved in conceptual artwork before joining the anti-Putinist punk collective. In 2007, she joined the Voina art collective—a student street-art group from the Rodchenko Moscow School of Photography and other Russian universities that blended spontaneous art pranks with guerrilla-style graffiti.

Speaking about Inside Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova said that the idea for the show came to her after seeing the Les Enfants Terrible production of Alice’s Adventures Underground in London. “I wondered, what if we combined the aesthetic effect of the immersive theater with our activist approach?” she said. “Could it actually enhance our political agenda?”

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