Performance artist slams United Russia party at Hermitage Museum

Performance artist slams United Russia party at Hermitage Museum
A snapshot from the YouTube video of a member of Blue Rider scrubbing the words United Russia off his body

12 June 2014
Text Nadia Beard

A member of Russian activist art movement Blue Rider staged a performance at St Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum on Wednesday by taking off his clothes and climbing into an ancient Roman tomb before scrubbing off his body the name of ruling party United Russia, written in black pen, using a sponge.

The group dubbed the performance Unwashed Russia, making reference to the poem by early 19th-century romantic poet Mikhail Lermontov, in which the poet attacks the country for being “a country of slaves, and a land of masters”.

The act symbolised “Russia’s need to wash from itself the filth and dirt of the past,” the group told news website Grani.ru. In a move that stunned museum visitors, police arrested but later released the artist along with two journalists from Reuters and Grani who were filming the performance.

The group, who named themselves after the 1920s Russian emigre art collective Der Blaue Reiter, made headlines earlier last month when they dressed in military uniform and knelt on a Ukrainian flag in front of the FSB building in St Petersburg while washing in a bowl of fake blood to protest against alleged Russian aggression in Ukraine and the ensuing widespread violence.