10 февраля 2013, 15:35

On the streets: how a performance art movement is rallying crowds, — Calvert 22, London

On the streets: how a performance art movement is rallying crowds, - Calvert 22, London

May Day mass demonstrations used to be a trademark feature of Soviet life. Military parades, official speeches, processions with red flags and banners all praising the ideals of the working masses. With the collapse of the Soviet system those demonstrations have lost their original meaning. But they continue out of tradition, often as an excuse for protests by different political parties.

Artyom Loskutov, a young artist from Novosibirsk, is aiming to bring new meaning to the May Day demos by replacing ideology with absurdity. In 2004, he staged a May Day event on the streets of Novosibirsk called Monstration. Some 80 people joined him on a march through town, carrying placards and posters bearing slogans gleefully stripped of politics or logic: “So what”, “We are not vegetables”, “Yesterday was Tuesday, but today is Tuesday as well.«

Monstration marches have taken place every year since and have spread to 20 cities including Moscow, St Petersburg and Vladivostok. In 2009, he was arrested for disturbing the peace after organising one of these events. In 2010, Loskutov was awarded the Innovation prize, Russia’s equivalent of the Turner Prize. And Monstration events now attract over 2,000 participants. Even as the happenings grow in scale and significance, they continue to retain their absurdist core. Improvisation and carnival are crucial elements, with participants dressed in costume and even greeting the changing of traffic lights with a loud cheer.

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