5 June 2009 Main Posts Artist-Activists Protest in St Petersberg Rjurik Davidson When I was up at the Sydney Writers’ Fest, Captain Rumble and I ended up at a party following the launch of a political art exhibition called There Goes the Neighbourhood, curated by political artist Zanny Begg. Zanny just forwarded the following news: On May 15, the young contemporary artist Artem Loskutov was arrested in his native Novisibirsk and charged with possession of a narcotic substance (marijuana) by the local branch of the Interior Ministry’s notorious Center for Extremism Prevention (Center “E”). Loskutov and his supporters claim that the police planted the marijuana in his bag in order to incriminate him. As one of the organizers of the annual “Monstration” — a flash mob street party in which young people march with absurdist, non-political slogans — Loskutov had long been an objection of the Center’s attentions. At a pre-trial custody hearing on May 20, it was revealed that the Center had been tapping the phones of Loskutov and his friends for the past six months. In April and on May Day itself, Loskutov had been summoned to the Center for “discussions,” and his parents had been called and told that their son was a member of a dangerous sect. The circumstances of the case and the way that he was arrested thus point to a campaign of intimidation directed both at Loskutov and his fellow “monstrators” in Novosibirsk. The Loskutov case has sparked a massive outcry in Russia’s activist and art communities. In the past three weeks, artists, activists, and ordinary concerned citizens all over Russia have carried out a series of pickets, protests, and actions in Loskutov’s defense. The most inspiring of these actions has been a “plein air” hunger strike organized by several young artists in Petersburg, now in its second week. The artists encamped themselves in a park next to city hall and began producing paintings and drawings whose central theme is the increasingly brutal police repression of social activists and left-wing artists in Russia. The hunger strikers have issued three demands. First, they want a criminal investigation of the mass arrests by riot police of a group of young anarchists on May Day in Petersburg despite their having obtained official written permission to march with the other columns of demonstrators. Second, they call for the creation of a public commission to monitor the work of Center “E.” Finally, they ask that all charges against Artem Loskutov be dropped and that he be released. Although the Loskutov case and the Petersburg hunger strike have become one of the hottest topics in the Russian blogosphere, there has been a near-total blackout in the mainstream Russian press, especially television. That is why we ask you to read the article linked below and learn how you can join our campaign of solidarity with Artem and his artist comrades in Petersburg. We have called an international day of solidarity actions for June 9, a day before Artem’s next hearing in the Novosibirsk Regional Court. An injury to one is an injury to all. Free Artem Loskutov! http://chtodelat.wordpress.com/2009/06/04/free-artem-loskutov/ http://www.demotix.com/news/artists-hunger-strike-drags-international-economic-forum-looms Rjurik Davidson Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson. More by Rjurik Davidson Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 11 November 202211 November 2022 Main Posts On the last day of Subscriberthon, our amazing online editor gives you one last (very good) reason to subscribe Editorial team What's in store for the last day of Subscriberthon? First published in Overland Issue 228 10 November 202210 November 2022 Main Posts On the second-last day of Subscriberthon, our favourite editor-duo give you reason #1002 to subscribe to Overland Editorial team What's in store for the second-last day of Subscriberthon?