The Ukrainian-Russian artist Aljoscha has staged an anti-war intervention in front of The Motherland Monument in Kyiv to protest Russia's invasion of Ukraine this week. Bearing in his hands two pink forms made of acrylic, plastic and fiberglass, the Kyiv-based artist stood naked in front of the massive steel statue that commemorates Russia's role in the Second World War.
"There [are] no justified conflicts, all of them are criminal, causing violence and pain to all kind[s] of biological beings," says Aljoscha in a statement. "Any kind of human ideology is violent."
The pink forms he held relate to a core part of his practice, termed as "bioism". This is defined by the artist as the idea of "extending life to non-living beings" and thereby "constructing new forms of life".
The 62-metre-tall Motherland Monument was erected in 1981. It depicts a woman with her arms outstretched, holding a sword in one hand and in the other a shield embossed with a hammer and sickle. It is part of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War in Kyiv. Since 2015, Ukraine has outlawed from public life many symbols of Soviet communism, such as the hammer and sickle, making this statue a recent site of political tension, despite war monuments being exempt from the ban.
Meanwhile, a number of prominent Russian cultural figures have also decried Putin's decision to escalate the conflict into war. A founding member of the famously outspoken Pussy Riot, Nadya Tolokonnikov, has launched a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO, a member-owned community whose financial transactions are maintained on a blockchain) to raise funds for Ukrainian civilian organisations that are helping people who are displaced and in danger. A drop of 10,000 NFTs minted on Ethereum will benefit the Return Alive Foundation and NGO Proliska.
On Pussy Riot's Twitter are a number of statements critcising Russia's incursion. One, posted yesterday, reads: "Sanctions against Kremlin were not solid enough when Putin annexed Crimea in 2014. So he jailed Navalny, turned lives of Pussy Riot and other Russian activists into hell, forced many of us to leave our home behind and run, and now he started a war in Europe. When is enough?”
And the four-person collective AES+F, who represented Russia at the 2007 Venice Biennale, posted a black square on Instagram yesterday, a gesture symbolising digital protest and solidarity, popularised in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020.
More than 1,700 Russians in 53 cities across Russia have been detained by police for protesting against the invasion. Russian authorities released a statement on 24 February telling people not to take part in "unsanctioned" protests, warning of legal repercussions for joining anti-war demonstrations. More than 60 Russian activists and journalists have been arrested.