Subversive Art and Russia's Protest Movement

What is the Big Idea?


Graffiti artist P183, whose real name is Pavel, canvasses the streets of Moscow at night armed with a can of spray paint. One of his murals depicts a grandmother and child holed up in a shelter with a bomb looming overhead. This is P183's commentary on Vladimir Putin's March 4 return to the presidency.

"Russia is in a permanent state of war between different factions trying to seize power," he told Le Temps in an interview. "There’s nothing ordinary people can do. Grandmothers, children, workers… They have no choice. "

Pavel shies away from the camera during the interview, covers himself with his balaclava, and prefers to keep the public at bay so he can "continue his flirtations with illegality."

He also creates eye catching guerrilla art installations. A girl hangs Christmas ornaments on barbed wire, a giant fork impales a field of spaghetti made of industrial tubing.

Moscow's walls serve as "the best place to reach people directly and create personal atmospheres." His nights usually entail a chase by the local police that ends at the police station. 

Check out a slideshow of his artwork here.

What is the Significance?

First it was Pussy Riot with punk rock and now it's P183 and his graffiti art. Russia's subversive and artistic expression is emblematic of the country's anti-Putin sentiments and increasing civic awareness.

"Anti-Putin protests are the best thing that has happened to Russia in recent years," Pavel says. "Those who take to the streets are not afraid of anything. It’s the birth of a civil society in Russia. "

But since the election on March 4, the protests are shrinking and the opposition needs to get down to business. So where does the opposition go from here?

Mark Galeotti, expert on modern Russia, was in Moscow during the election and he made a stop at Big Think upon his return. What he witnessed was smaller crowds and a wake up call for the opposition to get serious now that Putin is back in office.

"I don’t think it’s necessarily they’re starting to feel defeated," said Galeotti. "It’s more that they’ve realized that protests in Moscow are great, but that doesn’t translate into support across the country.  I think what’s needed now is going to be a shift to a completely different type of movement, one that actually can reach out to other constituencies, so not so much defeat, but certainly realizing that it’s going to be a longer struggle than they thought."

So how can they accomplish this?

"Well they have to start getting involved in the really boring elements of politics," he said. "It’s been extraordinary what they’ve done in the last three months. What they now have to do is to begin to form parties, to reach out to other interest groups, other regions, other classes and so forth and it’s going to take a long time and in the process the opposition is almost by definition going to fragment."

Artist acts like Pussy Riot and P183 have a unique metropolitan appeal for middle class, educated Moscowians. Provincial Russians would be shocked by their activity, says Galeotti. This further underscores the need to organize and find ways to reach those outside of Moscow.

For those who missed it, check out Mark Galeotti's LIVE interview here:

A dark matter hurricane is crashing into Earth

Giving our solar system a "slap in the face"

Surprising Science
  • A stream of galactic debris is hurtling at us, pulling dark matter along with it
  • It's traveling so quickly it's been described as a hurricane of dark matter
  • Scientists are excited to set their particle detectors at the onslffaught
Keep reading Show less

Are we all multiple personalities of universal consciousness?

Bernardo Kastrup proposes a new ontology he calls “idealism” built on panpsychism, the idea that everything in the universe contains consciousness. He solves problems with this philosophy by adding a new suggestion: The universal mind has dissociative identity disorder.

We’re all one mind in "idealism." (Credit: Alex Grey)
Mind & Brain

There’s a reason they call it the “hard problem.” Consciousness: Where is it? What is it? No one single perspective seems to be able to answer all the questions we have about consciousness. Now Bernardo Kastrup thinks he’s found one. He calls his ontology idealism, and according to idealism, all of us and all we perceive are manifestations of something very much like a cosmic-scale dissociative identity disorder (DID). He suggests there’s an all-encompassing universe-wide consciousness, it has multiple personalities, and we’re them.

Keep reading Show less

California wildfires death toll climbs to 50

Firefighters in California are still struggling to contain several wildfires nearly one week after they broke out.

(Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Hundreds of people are still missing after three wildfires spread across Northern and Southern California last week.
  • 48 of the 50 deaths occurred after the Camp Fire blazed through the town of Paradise, north of Sacramento.
  • On Tuesday night, a fourth wildfire broke out, though it's mostly contained.
Keep reading Show less