A Russian art group tested the boundaries between art and activism on New Year’s Eve when it broke into a St. Petersburg police station and used gasoline bombs to set fire to a police vehicle. Voina called their actions “a gift to all political prisoners of Russia.” As demonstrations heat up in Russia, protesters are debating whether the act is a work of art, a protest, an act of stupidity or all of the above.
Voina (“War” in Russian) is a Russian anarchist performance art collective whose previous art actions have included breaking out of jail, having sex in public and painting a giant phallus on a drawbridge, for which they received an award from Russia’s Ministry of Culture (the group rejected the prize).
The Washington Post wrote about the Voina group in April, and they admitted to violently harassing security officials and shoplifting from supermarkets to sustain their anti-consumerist lifestyle.
“We don’t have anything to do with any Russian political groups or platforms,” Oleg Vorotnikov, who founded Voina with his wife, Natalya Sokol, told the Post. “If you ask us a question about whom would we prefer — Putin or Medvedev — it shows that you don’t understand what you’re talking about.”
The group announced that they were responsible for the New Year’s Eve attack, but the the New York Times reports that the St. Petersburg police responded skeptically, despite a Voina video of the blaze. Though the video clearly shows a man placing a lit object under a vehicle, police said that similar fires have been caused by a short circuit. Watch the art of arson below.