Pussy Riot Art and Protest


Free Pussy Riot! #freepussyriot from Peaches on Vimeo.

Well, it happened. The Pussy Riot verdict has been announced. The girls have each been sentenced to two years in prison for performing their one-minute “punk prayer” in the Christ The Savior Cathedral to protest Russia’s fusion of church and state. “Even though we are behind bars, we are freer than those people,” said Pussy Riot band member  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from her glass cage on the last day of the trial. “We can say what we want, while they can only say what political censorship allows.”

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Protests are happening around the world today. Above, a protest video by Peaches that was released three days ago. The video features performers who support Pussy Riot from around the world, including Kate Nash, The Knife, Lykke Li, Miike Snow, Peter Bjorn and John, Light Asylum, Deichkind, The Hives, Dave Catching(EODM), Screamclub, J.D. Samson, Marshall Crenshaw, Wayne Kramer, Bonaparte, Margaret Cho, Dave Hill, Nick Zinner, Jake Shears, Bun E Carlos, Narcissister, Sheila Chipperfield, Bronson Hankins, John Renaud, Fya Hopelezz, Margaret Saadi Kramer, Miss Guy, Sir Honey Davenport, Saskia Hann, Empress Stah, and Vice Cooler.

Below, a free poster by Molly Crabapple. Download the hi-res here. Print, post, mashup, and share. (Or buy a limited-edition 17″ x 22″ print to support their legal fund from Molly.) FREE PUSSY RIOT!

FREE PUSSY RIOT!

In early 2012, the Russian feminist punk band/avant grade group Pussy Riot staged several disruptive performances in Moscow. Inspired by Oi! bands, the riot grrrl movement, and an diverse slew of cultural thinkers, the band donned colorful ski masks, armed themselves with electric guitars, and sang in protest of the  devastating violations of civil rights happening under Putin’s regime.

Back in February, Mer blogged about the band’s “Punk Prayer” – an incident in which the band stormed Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral for an impromptu performance. The lyrics of the song criticized the Orthodox Church’s corrupt alliance with Putin’s government, asking Mother Mary to deliver Russia from Putin’s third term. “Virgin Mary, Mother of God, become a feminist,” the girls sang before they were dragged away by the authorities.


Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich, the three jailed members of Russian punk collective Pussy Riot

After the performance, things got dark for Pussy Riot. Three members of the group were arrested, thrown in jail, denied bail, and held without trial for months. They have been charged with “hooliganism,” and are facing up to seven years in prison. At time of writing, the women have spent 117 days in jail, with the trial postponed for months longer. This is without any family visits, despite two of the girls being young mothers.

Shit is fucked up and bullshit in Russia. Putin has just exponentially increased the anti-protest fine, riot police are savagely beating anti-Putin protesters, and the homes of opposition leaders just got raided. Moscow has just placed a 100-year ban on LGBT pride parades, and St. Petersburg has banned any images of “gay propaganda.” Meanwhile, Russia’s Kremlin-controlled media has done its best to sway public opinion against the girls, painting them as “blasphemous” criminals bent on destroying the entire Russian Orthodox religion. In this climate, it’s likely that the three members of Pussy Riot will be convicted. In fact, just 7% of Russians believe that the band should not somehow be punished.

Luckily, Pussy Riot’s plight has started to gain international attention. Solidarity demonstrations are happening around the world, there have been enthusiastic benefit shows, and Pussy Riot has caught the attention of the art world. In Russia, more than 100 of Russia’s best-known cultural figures have signed a letter urging for the band to be released. Abroad, musicians including Kathleen Hanna have taken up the cause, and Anti-Flag released a Punk Prayer cover in support.

What can you do to help? For one, spread the word. Organize a local benefit, or donate to their legal fund (note: at time of writing, the site freepussyriot.org where you can donate is down, but most of the time it’s running). Take action with Amnesty International, urging the Prosecutor’s Office to drop the charges and release the band. Stage a protest at your local Russian Embassy  or Russian Orthodox Church. Take pictures. Show the band that they are not forgotten.

Osombie. No, really, Osombie.

You would probably want to be careful when making a movie that involves Afghanistan. You could, perhaps, be more cavalier in dealing with Osama bin Laden (in the U.S. at least), but I’d think you would want to exhibit some sort of sensitivity when making a film about a country we’ve been involved with on, let’s just say, unpleasant terms for a while now. It seems like a bad idea to make a film about a group of white people (like, super white people) running around a poor, war-torn country (our war, no less) doing sick karate kicks and slaughtering the local populace in droves, even if they’re “zombies”, and then have them partake in hot, white people make-out sessions in between said slaughter. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

Why Coilhouse Is Going Dark

Effective immediately, we’ll be shutting down until midnight tomorrow to protest two pieces of blacklist legislation - PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) in the Senate, and Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House.

Over the weekend, we saw several victories against the bills.  The Obama administration came out against the DNS blocking in response to the anti-SOPA petition.  SOPA author and notorious copyright infringer Rep. Lamar Smith stated on Friday that DNS blocking would be struck from the bill.  The Internet may have won these battles, but the war is far from over. Despite earlier reports that SOPA was “shelved” (or, as some might say “indefinitely detained”) over the weekend, Lamar Smith announced today that SOPA markup would resume next month.

SOPA has not gone away. PIPA is still up for a vote on January 24th. It’s time to make our voices heard. Coilhouse will be standing with Wikipedia, the EFF, BoingBoing, Reddit, and sites all over the world.

Coilhouse (and countless other publishers, businesses, and activists) could never thrive in a world where SOPA and PIPA were considered reasonable. We oppose the concept of the MPAA (or any corporate sponsor, for that matter) actually writing legislation. We oppose a room full of politicians who don’t understand how the Internet works making vital judgements about its future.

Some relevant quotes:

“If the ████ SOPA [and PIPA] bill passes, ████████████ we’re all kind of ████ed.” – Marina Galperina

“I’m not by any means an enemy of intellectual property, and in fact keep a roof over my head because the conceptexists. But I think that SOPA as it stands now, or as it stood beforethey paused to think about it, is extremely ill thought out, and abasically crazily Draconian piece of legislation.” – William Gibson

“Our freedom is more important than your dying industry. Period.” – @mikeestee

“It doesn’t get much better than working from a war room dedicated to shutting down Wikipedia.” – overheard by @sfslim at the offices of Wikipedia

“These bills were written by the content industry without any input from the technology industry. And they are trying to fast track them through Congress and into law without any negotiation with the technology industry.” - Fred Wilson (Union Square Ventures)

“When ideas are blocked, information deleted, conversations stifled and people constrained in their choices, the Internet is diminished for all of us. There isn’t an economic Internet and a social Internet and a political Internet. There’s just the Internet.” – Hillary Clinton

“The potential for abuse of power through digital networks – upon which we as citizens now depend for nearly everything, including our politics – is one of the most insidious threats to democracy in the Internet age … This is no time for politicians and industry lobbyists in Washington to be devising new Internet censorship mechanisms, adding new opportunities for abuse of corporate and government power over online speech.” - Rebecca MacKinnon (New York Times)

“We’re furthering our corporate interest by taking down our website + ads, to stop a law that the MPAA says can’t harm us.” - Rob Beschizza in response to MPAA butthurt

When was the last time you saw “The Internet” agree about something? It’s beautiful. Thanks, #SOPA! - @raindrift

Intellectual property theft is a problem for artists, and additional safeguards may be needed. As avant-cellist Zoe Keating tweeted earlier today, “I’m against #SOPA, but meanwhile I’m issuing a 7th, ineffective & useless DMCA against @grooveshark. #devilinthedetails” (Grooveshark is notorious among music streaming sites for refusing to pay artists their fair share.) There are no easy solutions. Whether it’s collaboratively fine-tuning the OPEN Act (and it turns out that Rep. Zoe Lofgren, one of the act’s sponsors and SOPA’s biggest opponents, actually listens to feedback) or working out some other method of protest (perhaps a huge internet campaign to educate fans on which sites most fairly compensate the artists they love?), we can work together to construct an Internet where innovation can thrive and artists can fairly profit their work.

SOPA and PIPA cannot pass. The stats are scary: we currently have only 6 Senators opposing PIPA, and we need 40. Only 12 House Members oppose SOPA, and we need 214.

Get involved. Some tips from Congressman Jared Polis and the EFF:

  1. Show up at a town hall or talk to them in person, check their schedule with their office.
  2. Call your Senators and Representative and tell them to oppose Protect-IP and SOPA, respectively.  Click here for some suggested talking points. Then tell your friends about the call on social media sites.
  3. Contact Congress through EFF’s action center.  Customize your letter to explain who you are and why you are worried about this bill. If you’re outside the United States, try this petition from Fight for the Future instead.
  4. Are you an artist? Showcase the dangers of censorship through art and music, and use your art as a way of reaching people who might otherwise not know about this issue. You can make stickers, posters or patches, create a YouTube video, or hold an open-mic night around censorship.
  5. Write a blog post about the blacklist bills.  Whether it’s a candid explanation of why you oppose the legislation, a discussion of the effect on human rights, or a call to filmmakersto protest the blacklist, there are plenty of things to say about this scary legislation. Help us get the word out by writing articles on your own blog, your school blog, or on blogs that take guest contributors.
  6. If you work for a tech company, approach the leadership at your company and explain to them your concerns. Urge them to join you in speaking out. These companies (PDF) already took a stand.
  7. More tips available from The EFF.

Together, we will defeat this.

Have you called the White House yet?


Tom the Dancing Bug, via BoingBoing.

Plenty of websites have been reporting/debating/parsing the National Defense Authorization Act controversy for weeks now. In a nutshell, the NDAA contains provisions that have been worded so broadly, they’ll give any future president the power to imprison American citizens and legal residents of the U.S. indefinitely and without trial on the basis of accusation (even without proof) of a “belligerent act”.

Indefinitely. Without trial. This situation is not merely about politics; it’s about our most basic and precious civil rights.

If you can find a minute in the next 24 hours to call (202) 456-1414 to ask President Obama to change his mind, he still has until tomorrow (Dec 26th) to veto the bill.

It’s worth a shot.

[EDIT: Sunday, Dec 25. Apologies, folks. Looks like the office is closed until Tuesday. But, by all means, write a letter (even if it's too late): http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call#write ]

Transphobia is Tasteless: An Open Letter to Hell Pizza

EDIT: (Mon, Dec 5th, 6:45 NZT) Hell Pizza’s webmaster has just remarked on their Facebook page: “We’ve taken what you and others have said onboard and realised we crossed the line with some of our biggest advocates. We apologise.”  Thank you for taking responsibility, Hell Pizza.

EDIT (Mon, Dec 5th, 6:15 NZT): Hell Pizza Admits “Sense of Humour Failure“. 

Hell Pizza is an international food chain that started here in Wellington, New Zealand in 1996. They’ve since expanded within NZ and brought stores to the UK, Australia, Ireland, Canada and Korea. They’re no strangers to controversy. Entirely depending on your perspective, they’ve made some really shocking dick moves in the past, and pulled off some  darkly satisfying campaigns as well.

But the following “Misfortune Cookie” stunt seems especially mean-spirited, even for them:


Photo by Tamsyn Clemerson

Tamsyn Clemerson uploaded the above picture to Teh Book ov Face earlier this weekend. She has since confirmed to me in email, and to NZ NEWSWIRE, that this is a “Misfortune Cookie” she ordered from the Hell Pizza franchise:

I bought [it] on the 26th of November. I just got around to opening the last one last night, 2 December, and that was the “misfortune” that I received. I resized the photo to post it online, but aside from that have not manipulated it at all. I still have the original packaging and the misfortune, though not the cookie as I ate it because it was delicious. Please spread this as much as possible, Hell Pizza need to know that this sort of thing is not okay.

I’ve since made some calls to Hell Pizza. Two days ago, I spoke at length with a Strathmore shop manager, as well as their Wellington division marketing manager. Both employees denied knowing anything about that particular message. The latter, a very professional and lovely fellow named Jason, assured me he’d look into it, and we should keep in touch. Today, he was able to confirm that yes, this is a product Hell Pizza sells, which was signed off on by their marketing department. Apparently, they’re already getting a lot of complaints about it. And they should. Jason tells me Hell Pizza is working on an official press statement which should be out shortly. I’ll update here when it does.

I’m hardly a humorless hardnose. But for many reasons, the thoughtlessness of a product like this, especially placed in context, really fucks me off. So here’s my open letter to Hell Pizza. If, like me, you’re weary of seeing at-risk minorities be treated as the butts of hateful “jokes” (and then often further insulted by “it’s just meant to be funny; lighten up” backlash reactions) please feel free share this letter, and to join me in boycotting irresponsible franchises who stoop to this level of pandering cruelty.

Dear Hell Pizza (NZ),

If you check your Strathmore location’s online order logs, you’ll see that I’ve spent several hundred dollars on your food over the past couple of years. I love it. I love YOU!  I love how yummy your many dishes are. I love that you take chances. I love that you root for underdogs and outcasts. I love your creativity. I love that you hire inked up, pierced up people with funny-colored hair. I love that you’re so irreverent and cheeky, poking fun at overbearing religious traditions and obnoxious public figures. (Granted, those Hitler and “Brownies” billboards were bullshit, but you took ‘em down after enough people said “oh HELLS no”, and all was forgiven.)

Which makes this letter a bummer to write: I can’t buy your food anymore.

Hail To The V: A Vaginal Journey Through Time

There are, on this staff, any number of people who are, without a doubt, more well spoken and better qualified to comment on this subject than me. Many of them are in possession of the biological equipment that this product is, uh, aimed at. One of the staff has even commented on this brand’s questionable advertising only a few weeks ago. I must apologize in advance then. In the end you are not getting the insightful, well-reasoned and well-informed commentary that you, the loyal and erudite Coilhouse reader, deserve. Instead you are getting the blathering of the Catacombs’s most puerile and juvenile prisoner occupant.

“Hail to the V” is a new commercial for Summer’s Eve “cleansing wash and cloths”. It features an authoritative sounding voiceover by a woman with an authoritative British accent. (Which is redundant, really, because as any American and, of course, Summer’s Eve knows, a British accent is, by its intrinsic Britishness, authoritative. That is why it is in this commercial.) Anyway, this voice leads us through a number of different “historical” scenarios meant to illustrate just how gosh darn important vaginas are. Especially your vagina. Yes, you there, miss.

So, first we are shown a Neolithic woman, clothed in the skins of animals, holding aloft a neonate (also clothed in animal skins) while British Lady intones stoically about the cradle of life. Flashing forward in time, we are presented with another woman, costumed in order to suggest Egyptian royalty. Looking out over her subjects, she throws up her arms in a massive V (like the one in vagina) and British Lady refers to “it” (also, your vagina) as “the center of civilization”. Do you see where this is going, ladies? Do you? “It” (or, your vagina) is pretty damn important. But how important? Relax, we’re getting to that.

Now we come to the longest part of the ad. We find ourselves in a bamboo forest. There are two Asian gentlemen in this forest with us. One has a sword, while the other has a long, rubbery looking staff. They are fighting in a manner that Americans associate with Asia. There is also an Asian woman in the background, looking on, dressed in a manner that Americans associate with Asia as it was long ago. British Lady begins to pontificate on how, throughout history and all over the world (hence the excursion to Asia), men have “fought for it”. Quickly, we cut to Medieval Europe. There are knights on horses. They are jousting. They drive their horses towards one another, their immense, phallic weapons undulating angrily in front of them. There is a woman here, too, looking on. Some men, British Lady informs us, breathlessly, some men have even died for it. One of the knights falls, which pleases the woman who has been watching. As the victorious knight raises his visor to look at her, British Lady concludes with “One might say, it’s the most powerful thing on Earth,” which is true, I suppose; one might say that. But, then again, one might say all sorts of things when trying to market douche.

Finally, we are approaching our terminus, the payoff for this weird trip through time and space. We have, at last, been returned to the present. Inside a store, a woman is thoughtfully pondering a Summer’s Eve product. She nods her head and mutters to herself, presumably to signal her agreement with that last line from British Lady when, suddenly, American Lady — familiar, jovial, and friendly — cuts in and gets to the point, saying, “So come on ladies, show it a little love,” which, again, is something you might say when trying to market douche.

I’m just not sure it’s something you should say. I’m not sure how comfortable I am with a full minute of advertising that repeatedly references disembodied genitalia. “It” is the cradle of life, but isn’t “it” attached to someone? “It” is the center of civilization, but “it” isn’t the one throwing up its arms. But the strangest, most uncomfortable section is that last part, the longest part, the part where men are fighting for “it” — killing to possess “it”. That section is really weird because what I get from that section is that men have made war upon one another for your vagina. They have killed each other for your vagina. They have leveled cities and razed the land for your vagina.

The least you could do is ignore those damned health warnings and make sure it doesn’t smell.

Russian Photoshop Weddings

Via EnglishRussia:

It seems that some couples find their wedding moments not vivid enough. They believe that photo editing can make the memories of the wedding day even much more impressive and close the boring gaps with the help of the powerful Photoshop. It’s not recommended for people with highly sensitive nature to look at the pictures.

Damn, Russia… damn. More horrifying wedding photos after the jump, and even more over here.

Fear of an Androgynous Model: Andrej Pejic Brings Out the Hyenas


Andrej Pejic – photo by Sabine Villiard

Andrej Pejic, the beautiful, androgynous Australian model, has had an amazing degree of success for one so young (19). He’s graced the covers of Vogue‘s international editions and worked with such names as Marc Jacobs and Jean Paul-Gaultier.

However, FHM, when choosing to place the Bosnian-born stunner on their list of “100 sexiest women,” was apparently determined to show the world that whatever Pejic’s success, they were determined to keep him from blurring their neat boundaries.


With transphobia thrown in for good measure

While the magazine later yanked the text, it’s revealing. Macho as they try to be, it apparently only takes the slightest visceral proof that gender is a cultural aesthetic — and an enjoyably malleable one at that — for the lads of FHM to be beside themselves with, well, fear. Heaven forefend they might one day recline into their tangled sheets, reach for a copy of Victoria’s Secret, and realize the glamorous angel on the cover is (gasp), a man.

Sadly, FHM is hardly alone. While men appear shirtless on magazine covers all the time, Barnes and Noble saw fit to wrap an issue of Dossier featuring Pejic, on the grounds that “it could be deemed as a naked female.” And that would be terrible.


Pejic for Vanity Fair Italy

Fortunately, it’s doubtful either bit of phobic wibbling will stop Pejic’s rise. His very presence in so many high-profile fashion venues is hopefully evidence that some things are changing for the better. The delightful pictures above and below show that radiant style cuts across the sexes, and Pejic has it in spades, with confidence to match. After humorously rebuffing a reporter who asked if he’d “consider a complete sex change,” Pejic simply said “I’m comfortable with the way I am.” Amen, and yum.

Birdwatcher Arrested, Subjected to Strip and Body Cavity Searches For Possession of… Sage?

Probably one of the more despicable leads you’ll read in American news this week, via the Orlando Sentinel:

Bird watcher wrongly arrested for possession of pot had sage in backpack. Deputy thought herb was marijuana; State Attorney’s Office ordered arrest without lab test.

Robin Brown was thrown in a Florida jail on felony charges of marijuana possession three months after sheriff deputy Dominic Raimondi mistook the sage she had in her backpack for pot. A field test had yielded a false positive, and after Raimondi filed his report, the State Attorney’s Office ordered for Brown’s arrest without ever conducting a crime lab narcotics test.

The 49 year old birdwatcher was taken out of her place of work in handcuffs and driven down to the station to be stripped, subjected to a body cavity search, and spend the night in jail. Such was Brown’s punishment for possession of a personal use-sized amount of marijuana plant… that wasn’t actually marijuana plant.

News of this story came to my attention via my friend Stephen, who comments: “Body cavity searches are getting to be a disturbingly common occurrence. Folks complain about sex education corrupting children, but when law enforcement wants to poke around inside your orifices, that’s just patriotic.”

There are many, many different ways in which Robin Brown’s story disturbs me. I’m not even sure what aspect to focus on; I just know that I owe it to myself to think actively and critically about what an increase in occurrences like this might mean, and that reportage of incidents like this should be shared as widely as possible.