Reactor

Pussy Rioters Nominated for Art Award in Singapore (of All Places)

by Jillian Steinhauer on January 17, 2014

Ever since their release from prison, Pussy Riot members Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova have received a lot of fawning — and sometimes weird — press and attention. But the latest Pussy Riot story, from Bloomberg News, reaches new levels of sigh-inducing absurdity.

The group has been shortlisted in the digital/video category of the Prudential Eye Awards, for “Punk Prayer,” the video that led to their sentencing and imprisonment on charges of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” The awards are part of the Global Eye Programme, which is a partnership between Parallel Contemporary Art and the Saatchi Gallery that’s backed by the British Council. Meant to offer — in typical artspeak — a “global platform” for emerging Asian artists, the program takes place in … Singapore! A country whose government has a great track record on human rights and civil liberties.

Now, I’m sure the judges for the awards thought they were doing something nice — heroic, even — by nominating Pussy Riot for the award, but the whole thing smacks of classic art world co-optation. And, just in case you were wondering, “The winner of the $20,000 prizes will be announced on Jan. 18 at a black-tie dinner in Singapore.” (Just wait for the Alekhina and Tolokonnikova photos, if they win.)

There’s also the fact that all of this is presented on Bloomberg without mention of any conflicts or discrepancies — which in this case basically means context:

David Ciliclira, a founder of the Prudential Eye Awards which paid to fly finalists to Singapore, said “contemporary art has taken over from music” as the voice of protest.

Yet the Singaporean government helped facilitate organizing the show exhibiting 20 Asian artists under a very tight timetable, he said.

“Everyone has been very helpful, from the lowest level to the minister of culture,” he said.

I guess that’s what happens when you switch from reporting on culture to reporting on luxury.

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