8 Things We Learned at the Pussy Riot Lecture

Adriene Jenik, Ed Masley, Ksenia Zhivago, and Maria Alyokhina at Pussy Riot: conversation on art, sex, and disobedience.
Adriene Jenik, Ed Masley, Ksenia Zhivago, and Maria Alyokhina at Pussy Riot: conversation on art, sex, and disobedience.
Sativa Peterson

"At least you have elections, guys."
Feeling cynical about the U.S. election season just hitting its stride? "I've heard Donald Trump exchanged a certain amount of compliments with Putin," Alyokhina said. But at least in this country you have the freedom to elect Donald Trump. "We recommend not to do it."

Sometimes, what keeps Pussy Riot going is social media.
When someone from the audience asked: What advice do you have for local activists? Alyokhina responded, "I can only speak about us, but what prevents us from surrendering is social media." Indeed, Pussy Riot seems to make the best possible use of new media, blending real life protest with music videos, and taped musical performances to create a YouTube-ready hybrid to get its free expression, not repression message across. 

More recently, the group gained attention via the HBO documentary, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer released in 2013, and when the Netflix series House of Cards depicted the arrest of the group's members in an episode on season three. Tolokonnikova, her husband Pytor Verzilov, and Alyokhina make cameo appearances in the episode guest starring as themselves. 

The LGBT situation in Russia is scary.
"I don't know what you've heard about the situation in Russia but I can tell you, as the person who is not really scared about many things, that the situation with the LGBT community in Russia is really scary," Alyokhina said. "People are killed just because they are gay." Zhivago added that the media coverage during the Sochi Olympics brought international attention to the problem, but unfortunately that media attention has faded, resulting in less reporting about cases of violence against the LGBT community. 

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Alyokhina recommends reading Art Spiegelman's Maus
A fan of books, she said this one should be read by every person. Then, Zhivago reminded her that it's banned in Russia for extremism. Alyokhina laughed full of amusement and charm. 

The night's conversation was the first truly public event to be held at Beth Hebrew Synagogue, which is quickly becoming a much needed community space for downtown Phoenix. Charlie Levy of Stateside Presents who, along with Cindy Dach of Changing Hands Bookstore, helped organize the event, said it was a "no-brainer" for the dialogue to take place at the newly renovated, community-minded synagogue. 

Added Alyokhina, "We are quite happy the synagogue was used for the first time for this classy event. I hope next time it will be a concert."



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