The artist and media activist from Novosibirsk is one of the organizers of ‘Monstration’, the annual satirical May Day march, taking place in Novosibirsk. He is also the author of the ‘Oil for Nothing’ documentary (2011) and other projects related to the shaping of Siberian identity.
’Monstration’ as means of neutralising state propaganda
In the last year, media landscape in Russia was filled by the state propaganda, whereby state authorities have been using the media to raise hysteria around the events in Ukraine in an attempt to distract public attention from the political and economic problems – blaming the ‘West’, with its supposed aim to destroy Russia, instead. Society is highly polarised. Conflicts between those who believe what they see on TV and those who do not watch it manifest themselves not only in the verbal battles on the Internet, but also in the workplace and even within the family.
Naturally, these circumstances make critical art messages appear as one of a broad menu of excuses for continuing this hysterical dividing up into ‘ours’ and ‘alien ones’ eagerly served by the media.
Among possible strategies used to preserve the existence of critical art statements could be the refusal to use political markers, non-participation in the binary contradiction ‘authorities vs. opposition’, ‘double backing’; and balancing between the satire and seriousness.
The annual Monstration that takes place on 1 May might serve as an illustration here. It is a mass art action in form of a demonstration with statements invented by participants. Statements printed on the banners are usually absurd and apolitical, e.g. ‘I won’t do this anymore’, ‘Arrrrgh!’, ‘Who’s there?’ etc. This way, Monstration questions the ‘serious’ political statements, bringing them to the levels of travesty and responds to the covert absurdity of propaganda with its overtly absurd statements.
Another example of the ideologeme neutralisation could be the ‘March for the Federalisation of Siberia’ that did not take place for formal reasons. The call for the march used the principles of state rhetoric regarding the interrelations between the regions in Ukraine transferred to the situation between the regions of Russia. The authorities’ unusually harsh reaction only stressed the fact that by pressing criminal charges of separatism they provided a striking feedback on their own foreign policy.