The St Petersburg drawbridge graffiti “bombing” by Voina was the reason the art group was nominated for the Russian state prize. The documentation of the action went viral last year. (image via everywhere on the web)

Animal NY reported that the Russian art collective Voina has been shortlisted for the Russian state prize for contemporary art, Innovation 2010, for the memorable phallus they painted on a drawbridge opposite KBG headquarters in St Petersburg. But the group doesn’t want the prize, which comes with a 400,000 RUB (US$13,600) purse.

The  nomination for the governmental prize comes as the group continues to be persecuted by Russian authorities for an art performance last year, when two Voina activists overturned a police car. Two members of Voina have so far spent three months in pre-trial detention for the incident.

Voina’s Alexei Plutser-Sarno told Animal NY that he condemns the nomination:

We consider the Innovation award as a proposal of dirty money from the Mafioso-like authorities – by giving artists a dole, they test them for conformism and loyalty to the executioners of the Russian contemporary art.

On the art group’s tumblelog, art-ivist Kozlenok released the following statement:

Voina never has and never will participate in any awards or money prizes. We make free, non-whoring art. Our art is our gift to the world and to each and every person. If reading the reports of our actions makes you feel joy or, on the contrary, provokes deep gloomy meditations, then we become happy. Our art touches people. And no one dares fix a price to it … There is no product to our art, it is not aimed at creating a product and evaluating it.

Moscow News says the nomination will not impact the trial.

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic.

2 replies on “Voina Art-ivists Reject Russian Culture Ministry’s Prize Nomination”

  1. Art is a valuable and integral part of life. all resources are monetized, and people of all valuable integral specializations must benefit from the monetary system that blankets life, until the behavior of gifting can become universally reciprocal. The statement or demonstration of that alternative can only be sacrificial until such a change occurs across specializations. Because art concerns itself with symbolism of the immaterial, its specialists often confuse their product with the immaterial object of its symbolism, and should be wary of that by which they may subject themselves to become sole members of a futile sacrifice.
    Art is a form of communication that may be able to push forward such alternatives into a sphere of acceptance en masse, but run a very realistic risk of falling on deaf ears even after many tries. If one cannot survive or achieve clout in the current system, how does one expect to effectively and continuously advertise their desired alternative? The sacrifice must be of overwhelming significance to converge with mass acceptance, or rely on a sustainable microcosm of the alternative that persistently plugs itself. If that is the case, the microcosm must offer obvious preferences, enough similarities to convince the most corrupt would-be converters to adapt easily, yet balanced enough not to befall the same corruption.
    in addition, total non cooperation with the current system can indirectly have adverse affects on on all attempts to communicate alternative ideas by creating a reputation for all art work of this nature. It creates an expectation that outrageous protests will be occurring frequently as part of a trend, breeding a perception of protests as free entertainment for a cynical news frenzied mass culture.

    1. Interesting analysis, I wouldn’t say this group have made a futile sacrifice though, but instead have actually become stronger through a refusal to be co-opted by the state. Retaining ideological integrity would be of much greater value to them than 13,600 dollars. Especially in terms of promoting their cause.

      Not all protests are for news entertainment either, some manage to overthrow governments. Or at least in some way contribute to the conditions that enable such a situation, by exposing power structures to ridicule and therefore making them appear weaker and more redundant in the eyes of the people.

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