February 27th Studentafton had Pussy Riot members Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky as its guests. The evening consisted of a conversation with moderator Lisa Kirsebom, with the help of interpreter Vadim Belenky. The couple talked about their life as artists in Russia, art and activism.
The Studentafton with Pussy Riot members Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky had sold out in a matter of days. The 27th of February the audience came in from an unusually cold evening, and filled up Stadshallen. The evening begins with Lisa Kirsebom, the moderator for the evening, entering the stage and giving the audience a brief introduction to Pussy Riot. The performance art group gained international attention in 2012 after a regime critical performance at the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, for which three of the Pussy Riot members were sentenced to two years imprisonment. During a protest performance in connection to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky were beaten by Cossacks. The audience is shown a video from the protest action in Sochi. Both guests and interpreter, Vadim Belenky enter the stage. At the request of the guests, there is a moment of silence for Boris Nemtsov who who were murdered on the streets of Moscow on the 27th of February 2015. Lisa Kirsebom gives the audience the background story of Lusine Djanyan and Alexey Knedlyakovsky, that they are currently seeking asylum in Sweden, and asks them to give their story of why they had to leave Russia. Lusine Djanyan explains that it is a long story, but that they received to much backlash and harassment for their art. How exhibitions were closed down, and how she was even approached when out on a walk with their son Tigran. To tell their story, several of their artworks are shown, and the meanings behind them are explained. One of the artworks is a painting by Lusine, showing a smiling Putin, for which she was told that she “shouldn’t be painting Putin like that”. They tell the audience about their life in Russia as Pussy Riot members, both protesting against the treatment of fellow members in prison, as well as Alexey spending some time in prison himself.
The conversation revolves around art, activism and its role in Russia today. They describe how the regime in Russia views them as dangerous, and how they receive little support from the public, due to the extensive use of propaganda by the regime. Alexey explains that the lack of support is just something you get used to, just as you get used to cold weather.
The questions from the audience touches upon subjects such as Russia, the election that is coming up, and their plans for the future. Alexey explains with a laugh that as Russians, they do not plan much, but that they will continue with their art. At the very end, as Lusine explains what motivates them, their son Tigran joins them on stage. She says that at the end of the day, he is what really motivates them, and the evening ends with a large applause, which the three year old Tigran seems to thoroughly enjoy.
The evening is also available as a podcast below.