Members of the ultra elusive, notorious protest art group Voina were hunted down and arrested in Moscow earlier this week. In September, Voina overturned a cop car at the site of a royal reformer’s assassination in 1801 and locked the cops inside the castle with a bike chain to bring attention to the corruption within the Russian Interior Ministry.
Two artists – Leonid Nikolayev and Oleg Vorotnikov – are now in a St Petersburg jail for 2 months, awaiting trial for “aggravated hooliganism” pitched as a hate crime on cops. Voina understands the $3,500 fine in damaging the police cruiser, but 7 years in the inhuman conditions of a Russian prison seems like disproportionate personal vengeance.
There’s a difference between vandalism and protest art, but this sort of discussion is impossible given the climate. The arrest of one of Voina’s chief organizers is damaging and disturbing, but Voina says the group will continue with actions: “An artist can’t shut up and stop doing his work.”