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A new exhibition called Free The Pussy! pays homage to Pussy Riot through curated artworks

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Layla Sailor – Let Our Sisters Go

Artists including Billy Chyldish, John Keane, No Bra, Yoko Ono, Pussy Riot and Jamie Reid will show work in a new exhibition titled Free The Pussy! next month.

Artist Tamsyn Challenger has curated the exhibition which features works made in response to Pussy Riot’s imprisonment by the Russian government in 2012.

In March 2012, three members of Pussy Riot – Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were arrested and convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” after their 40 second performance of the song Punk Prayer inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They were each sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. An appeal released Samutsevich on probation but the sentences of the other two women were upheld. International censure of the trial and sentencing followed and the women quickly became global feminist icons. 

Speaking to us about the curation process, Tamsyn says, “In 2012 I was asked to contribute art to the book Let’s Start a Pussy Riot published by Rough Trade Records. The book was being collated by four London feminist collectives to raise money for the Riot during their court case and subsequent imprisonment. Most of the work in the book was produced when the Riot sent out their call to arms to artists. At the time, hundreds of artists responded and I thought the protest work being made should be seen as a physical exhibition.”

“I suppose the story is one of a woman’s voice. Or in this case, women’s voices. The power that is contained in that. Women need to keep striving for fearlessness in the face of global gaslighting!” she continues.

Discussing her piece, Putin is a dickhead with us, artist Wendy Saunders explains, "“Putin is a dickhead’ was originally from a FC Kharkiv football chant “Putin khuilo”(Ukrainian: Путiн – хуйло, Russian: Путин – хуйло; meaning Putin is a dickhead) which was widely chanted and shared on social media in Ukraine in early 2014, during the Russian invasion of Crimea, and around the time the two jailed members of Pussy Riot had been freed. The artwork can now be seen almost as a historical snapshot of the times – a political statement mixing a provocative Putin meme, Twitter and the surprising dissemination of people power by Pussy Riot.”

The exhibition will take place 2 Aug – 26 Sept at the Sciennes & War Memorial Gallery, Summerhall.

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Jamie Reid – Pussy Riot

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Billy Chyldish – Free The Pussy

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Judy Chicago – What is Feminist Art?

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