Anti-Putin artwork ordered for destruction

An artwork depicting the gradual decomposition of an image of President Vladimir Putin has been ordered for destruction by a St Petersburg court.

The decision is one of the first in recent memory to target a specific artwork and is being appealed by artistic collective Rodina.

A print of the piece, titled “9 Stages in the Decomposition of the Leader”, was confiscated from protester Varya Mikhailova on May Day during a march on Nevsky Prospekt in St Petersburg.

Police arrived and detained Mikhailova and some of the protesters. They were released a few hours later, but the framed print remained in police possession. Mikhailova faced the Kuibyshev District Court in June and ruled to have participated “not in accordance with the declared purpose of the march.” She was fined 160,000 rubles ($2500 USD) while the print was ordered to be destroyed.

The artistic collective has appealed this decision, citing European Convention of Human Rights protections for freedom of peaceful assembly and the protection of personal property.

Rodina member Max Evstropov said the decision to destroy the physical artwork did not even achieve anything. “The funny thing with the court’s decision to ‘destroy’ our artwork is that it is digital, so physical destruction means nothing,” he said to art publication Hyperallergic. “The huge police state is rather awkward.”

The original artwork was created by Rodina as a digital piece with nine time-lapse images of Putin slowly disintegrating and being taken over by growing grass in 2015.

Rather than minimizing the artwork’s impact, court attention has played the opposite role with the art collective creating t-shirts, posters and other merchandise with the offending image. According to Rodina, they have made more than enough money to pay for Mikhailova’s court fine.

Evstropov said it was hoped the art collective’s small act of resistance could inspire other Russians.

“This action is an expression of hope for a slow but inevitable change in the situation from below — through a multitude of ‘small deeds,’” he said.

“It reflects the low spirits and sickness unto death so characteristic of Russian society of the last few years: there’s no revolution to wait for, and hope for change is no longer associated with human acts.”

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