Sometimes all it takes is the right gust of wind and an entire structure falls. The Yekaterinberg, Russia–based street artist Timofey Radya recently made an enormous sculpture of 55 riot shields, stacking them up in a pyramid that celebrates and critiques the one-year anniversary of the political protest movement that rocked the country last December after the Russian legislative election.
The protests were some of the biggest in Moscow since the 1990s, as citizens expressed their distrust of the ruling United Russia party and current president Vladimir Putin. The imagery that came from those conflicts, similar to that of the Occupy movement, was dominated by riot police tossing around protesters and dragging them away in handcuffs.
It’s in that context that Radya’s work is so effective. His pyramid, called “Stability,” is a precarious stack of heavy, metallic riot shields, punched through with their characteristic peepholes and slightly angled on their sides. A threatening symbol of power has been turned into satire. At the base of the pyramid is a red carpet and on top a golden throne, a manifestation of the position of the Russian government, having built a shaky authority on the basis of violence and coercion.
Check out a video of Radya’s installation below.
Radya’s street art often takes the form of urban interventions that present critical views on social and political issues. One series, Eternal Fire, involved throwing lit molotov cocktails at large canvases covered in napalm putty and mounted on the walls of a hospital in Yekaterinburg. The burns form massive portraits of World War II military heroes. “You Were Cheated” was a billboard installed on top of an apartment building with the title inscribed in large block letters immediately following the parliamentary elections that kicked off the protests.
Not long after it was installed, the “Stability” pyramid collapsed in an errant breeze and became just another pile of metal. The symbolic foreshadowing seems obvious.