Putin, Protests, and Pussy Riot (oh, and, yes, a little Boris Groys): The Update from Moscow

Two days ago, Lenta released an article claiming that two-thirds of the Russian public believes that Putin should enter into negotiations with the protesters.

This is how Putin negotiates: just days before the next big protest – scheduled for May 12 – the Russian President signed a law harshly increasing fines and penalties for unauthorized protests (and, incidentally, also outlawing the wearing of masks or people with criminal records in organizational capacity.) RIANovosti has conveniently put these new fines in an infographic for easier digestion. (Or rather, easier comprehension – nothing about this response is easy on the digestion.):

Additionally, it seems Moscow is stepping up social pressure. According to one much-forwarded report, the Chocoladnitza (a fair to middling coffeeshop franchise) nearest the center of the protests has stopped serving people wearing white, the color of solidarity for the protests. While this has only rallied protest spirit, a few just shrugged: “That’s really shitty coffee anyway,” one blogger responded. (Oh, and while Moscow’s at it, the city government also passed a law banning all Gay Pride related events for the next 100 years. The Atlantic had to run that headline with the disclaimer “Not the Onion.”)

Boris Groys speaks at Occupy Abai, June 2, 2012

This means had Boris Groys spoken at Occupy Abai one week later, he could have been out at least $300, based on the OMON’s characterization of his involvement. While Groy’s speech didn’t make too many ripples – in the end, one eyewitness lamented it was too short and hard to hear – he did publish a more extensive interview with Yury Saprykin of Afisha, where the esteemed professor touches on everything from Kabakov to Pussy Riot. In the defense of the latter (who will have another defense delivered next week at the Palais de Tokyo), he compares the group to Alexander Brener, the controversial artist who defaced a Malevich. Whereas Brener’s actions knowingly broke a law, Groys observes, the legality or illegality of Pussy Riot’s actions are much more contested. Furthermore, Groys believes that their actions have drawn the amount of attention they have already speaks to the relevance of those actions, whatever their aesthetic merit. After all, the purpose of contemporary art isn’t to make something everyone likes; as Groys exclaims in the interview title: “Do you think everyone in the West likes contemporary art? Hell no!”

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