Human rights activists and opposition politicians have published an open letter in defense of Artyom Loskutov, the 23-year-old artist and activist arrested in Novosibirsk last month, while the hunger strike led by local artists at City Hall entered its 12th day on Monday. Loskutov, who has been in custody since his arrest on May 15, is due in court again on Wednesday, when it will be decided whether or not he will be released pending trial. Continue reading
Tag Archives: Petersburg artists hunger strike
Tuesday, June 9, 2009, is a day of united actions in defense of Artem Loskutov, the young Novosibirsk artist arrested on May 15 by officers of the Center for Extremism Prevention. To learn the details of the case, please read our earlier post. There you’ll also find out what you can do to help.
The following video was shot by Dmitry Vilensky on day 10 of the artists’ hunger strike in the Parterre Garden of the Smolny Institute, Petersburg’s city hall. The hunger strikers—Yulia, Nastya, Flor, and Leonid—need your support as much as Artem does. If you write us with letters of support, we’ll deliver them to the strikers.Vodpod videos no longer available.
A Video Letter from the Hunger Striking Artists: Day 10
After Three Days of Rain, the Sun Came Out
Leonid: Freedom for Loskutov!
Dima: How do you feel?
Leonid: I feel fairly good. I feel that I’ll hang on longer than everyone else. But that remains to be seen.
This morning there was a big fight going on my soul. I thought, “Fuck! I’ll go to the death, but I’ll do what I set out to do!” It’s a new feeling.
Flor: The tenth day . . . In fact there’s no big difference—day seven, day ten. It’s approximately one and the same condition. It’s evened out. Yeah, I’m a little weaker. But on the other hand, the sun has come out, and so we can work, rather than sit around like stupid cows. So there’s a feeling of optimism: we’ll be working and everything will be a lot more fun.
The girls have gone a little sour. Yulia almost fainted today, and Nastya’s also a bit on the weak side. Maybe the sun will come out now. . . After all, vitamin D is our only food.
The solidarity is great: people come and chat with us, and that helps. That also keeps you going.
Come on down! If the sun is out, bring a guitar and we’ll play some music and have some fun. We’ve got lawn chairs here. We won’t dance—we’re too weak for that—but we’ll hang out. Everyone is welcome.
Leonid: June 9 is a day of united actions in defense of Artem Loskutov! Please organize something or other: draw pictures, hold a demo, hold a picket, anything you like. We’ve got to free Loskutov. Because if we free Loskutov, that means there’s still a chance. If we’re not unable to defend an ordinary person, an artist that the KGB has got its paws on, then that means we’ve fucked up our last chance. We need to use whatever means we’ve got.
Flor: I started drawing on this complaint letter to the prosecutor’s office. I came up with a new incarnation of Lenin.
The rain was falling and it was impossible to paint, so I made these little doodle sketches.
Leonid: Today this OMON officer showed up and said that everything here should be burned. Not as if we had any doubts on that score. Then he left. Now he’s standing over there.
Dima: What’s he doing?
Flor: Who the hell knows?
Leonid: He’s waiting for someone to give him permission to burn or break something. That’s his job: to guard the Motherland!
Camera and editing: Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat)
* The middle-aged man in glasses who appears in the middle of the video, “inspecting” the paintings before walking towards the Smolny with his companion in the leather jacket, is Nikolai Strumentov. “Every morning the plein air [hunger strike] is also visited by [Nikolai] Strumentov, deputy head of the [city] Committee on Law, Order, and Security—the bureaucrat responsible for the illegal arrests of demonstrators at the May Day street party.”
[00:01] We, the artists of Saint Petersburg, are forced to declare a hunger strike.
[00:06] The time has come to make a life drawing of the horror!
[00:12] “Liberty. Equality. Piracy. Pirate Street Party. May 1, 10:00 a.m. Saint Petersburg, Oktyabrsky Concert Hall”
[00:25] “Six Billion Pirates”
[01:38] “Everyone Come Out to the Plein Air!”
[02:10] Dima:What’s going on here?
[02:14] Flor: We’re on a hunger strike.
[02:17] Dima: Why?
[02:20–04:07] Flor: We want our demands to be met. I can even tell you what our demands are. First, on May 1, our art project, the Pirate Street Party, was shut down. Initially we got [official] permission to hold the event, but then the OMON [riot police] detained everyone. Without due cause, [the police] began fingerprinting people and putting them into their database of “extremists.” And so we’re here to show them that we’re not extremists but artists.
Our second demand is also connected with this “post-May Day syndrome.” After a flash mob on May 1 in Novosibirsk, the police planted narcotics on our colleague and Leonid’s friend Artem Loskutov and put him in jail. We demand that he be released on recognizance instead of sitting in a temporary detention facility [while his case is being investigated].
Our third demand is for the authorities to get to the bottom of this strange [Interior Ministry Unit], the Center for Extremism Prevention. This is the eighth day of our hunger strike.
[04:10] Dima: You’ve chosen this site. It’s clear that the authorities don’t permit [you] to display any political demands or slogans [here]. This place isn’t even marked as a place where people are on a hunger strike. How did you decide to take such radical steps? We haven’t seen anything like this in recent times: it’s really a historic event.
[04:36–05:25] Flor: Even when you get a permit for an art action, the authorities simply hold this permit in contempt. We’ve taken this step because there is no need to get permission to hold a plein-air session. That we’re also on a hunger strike is something we publicize in the media because here we can’t advertise that fact—it is categorically forbidden to hold mass protests in this place [the Parterre Garden of the Smolny Institute]. We chose the most provocative option so that [the powers that be] will understand that art can’t be extinguished.
[05:27–06:16] Flor: We made serious preparations. On the one hand, this is a palette, an ordinary item. But we had to prepare it so that it [also functioned as] a shield. But it’s also totally smeared with paint. Thus we were ready to do battle with the cops and cover them with paint. We had planned to tie one hand to this chain. It was actually attached [to this bench], and when we arrived we immediately chained ourselves to it. We intended to fight off [the cops] with this shield while chained to the bench. It would have been impossible [for them] to drag [us] along with this canvas and the easel into an ordinary police van.
[06:17–07:15] Nastya: We’re in a situation where the political police are actively evolving in Russia. Acts of civil disobedience are the only solution. Such acts should be within the bounds of the law, as it were, but such a surprise for the authorities that they won’t know how to react. Because everything we’re doing is legal, so to speak, and there is no reason to remove us. Moreover, we’re the ones who are abiding by the law, unlike the authorities, who don’t obey their own laws, but could care less about them. That is why we don’t know what to expect from the authorities. We don’t know who will be the next person jailed on fabricated charges. Absolutely anyone could be [their next target].
[07:16–08:34] Leonid: Our action is part of a very big campaign of solidarity with the artist Artem Loskutov, who has been imprisoned precisely for his activities as an artist. They want to put him away for several years on the basis of a fabricated charge. [Solidarity] actions have been happening in dozens of cities throughout Russia. We’re on a hunger strike here, and our goal is to get Loskutov released.
Today we learned that an anarchist in Barnaul, a city not far from Novosibirsk, has joined our hunger strike: he announced that he will continue his hunger strike until Loskutov is released. We are forced to do this with such radical methods as a hunger strike—we’re practically prepared to die—in order to defend the law. And yet the cops show up here continually and demand that we show them a permit for the hunger strike. They try to convince us what we’re doing is illegal. So we have to defend the law by means of this step towards death, and at the same time the cops jerk us around all the time by trying to convince us that we’re violating that very same law.
Flor: Moreover, we’re anarchists. It’s a totally absurd situation.
[08:35–09:31] Leonid: We’re getting active support, mostly from people in the Petersburg anarchist community. People come and bring us warm things, mineral water, and tea. They also just help us hang on through their simple presence here.
The newspapers are writing about us, although during the first days the situation was complicated because the local police didn’t let the press in and detained journalists. They threatened everyone they shipped out of here that there would be consequences if their reports showed up on the Internet. One way or another, however, we’ve managed to break through the information blockade, mostly via blogs and journalists we know.
[09:32–09:56] Leonid: We plan to continue our hunger strike until June 10 because that’s when the [next] hearing of Artem Loskutov’s [case] will happen, and we hope that something changes then. Also, the Saint Petersburg Municipal Commission on Human Rights will be meeting, and perhaps they’ll decide to open a criminal investigation into the absolutely illegal arrest of our absolutely legal May Day Street Party.
[09:57–10:06] Flor: “Plein air” is drawing [or painting] from life. We’re depicting Smolny [i.e., the Petersburg authorities] and our attitude towards them.
[11:10] June 9 is a day of solidarity actions in support of Loskutov and to defend everyone from police terror.
[11:16] Protest! Otherwise, tomorrow this will affect you!!!
[11:21] The Hunger-Striking Artists: Nastya, Flor, Leonid, Yulia
[11:27] Music by Hands on the Blanket (Ruki na odeyalo)
[11:31] Photos of the dispersal of the Pirate Street Party courtesy of Indymedia
[11:35] Camera and editing: Dmitry Vilensky (Chto Delat)