Thursday, 24 October 2013

Pussy Riot


Singing the cheerful refrain, "Holy shit, shit, God's shit", while parodying prayer in the sanctum of one of Russia's most revered cathedrals, the feminist punk band Pussy Riot, managed to get right up the noses of the Russian establishment on February 21, 2012. The performance took less than five minutes. The consequences are taking a lot longer to unfold.

Two members of the band are now in the gulag, enduring two-year sentences to hard labour.

Holy shit: hard labour for singing a tune?



It's a bit more complicated than that, and less of a tune than a kind of shout, but that's punk for you. Punk Prayer was an invocation to the Virgin Mary, asking her to become a feminist and help get rid of Putin and his gang. It took place in the holiest part of a particularly significant church in Moscow. Pussy Riot intended to highlight the partnership between the corrupt regime and the Russian Orthodox Church.

The Cathedral of Christ the Saviour is especially important to Muscovites because it was built to thank God for saving the city from the French in 1812 (see War and Peace) and then razed to the ground by the Communists in the 1930s and replaced with a swimming pool. Then in the early 1990s, as soon as communism was kaput, it was rebuilt by public subscription. The people paid for it out of their own pockets. In 2000, the jubilee year, it reopened, the tallest Orthodox cathedral in the world. So it's a place that's stiff with both sanctity and national identity.

By singing their song there, Pussy Riot was striking right at the heart of Russian identity. As one worshipper put it, "You wouldn't like someone who came and shat in your kitchen, would you?"

The Riot girls are minstrels, clowns, jokers, making a political point through humour. This kind of activism has a long history. Another current example is in Iran, men are taking selfies of themselves in drag to protest against sexist legislation.

But even though the medium is humorous, the words and actions sting. And in a country like Russia, the actions of Pussy Riot seem almost insanely brave. No matter how shite the singing and puerile the lyrics, it's exciting to see art that's truly political, truly engaged; art that is not naval gazing or self-regarding; art that is never going to be a trophy for a banker (despite Madonnna's appropriation of the Pussy Riot brand). This is fiery, thrilling, real, and at the same time stupid, childish and a little cruel.

Three of the women were arrested although Pussy Riot is eleven or more strong. The women wear jolly-coloured balaclavas to retain their anonymity. (Anonymity seems to be another theme of our times, but that is for another post.)

The trial of the Pussy Riot Three exposed the Kafkaesque absurdity of the Russian judicial system. It gave the Riot women an international platform and made Putin and his government look silly. Point made.

There is a much older chart for Mother Russia, but this one is for the post-communist regime, set for the 12 June 1990 The outer ring shows the day that Pussy Riot made their fateful video. Riot tactics are a guerrilla singalong followed by publishing the footage the internet.*

The transits are interesting.

First of all the nodes are across the signs that rule speech and broadcasting – Sagittarius and Gemini. This is an issue of free speech, but also of blasphemy.

Pluto - the god of shit - is exactly lined up with Russia's natal Uranus - the god of shock. But Pluto is also within orb of Russia's natal Neptune, its spiritual core. One of the most critical emotional elements in modern Russia is the reunion of the church and state which were torn apart by communism. This reunion is shown here by the powerful stellium in Capricorn, the sign of government, of Uranus, Neptune and Saturn. This re-making of old patriarchal structures is exactly what Pussy Riot is complaining about. Pluto comes along and ...

On that day, February 21, transiting Sun was conjuncting tr Neptune, which had just moved into Pisces. Pussy Riot is, of course, political performance art, ruled by Neptune (the art part that is). It's not making a rational argument; it's emotional. This worked two ways. The Riot performance is a visceral irrational thing, and the emotional reaction of the faithful was also overwhelming.

Now this tr Neptune-Sun was squaring Russia's Mercury in Gemini exactly. In other words, the country's communications were being messed with. And now we get to the planet of disruption, but this time Uranus in transit. On the day, it was at 2° Aries. Aries is, of course, the sign of youth, and Mercury is the planet of youth. The oldest of the Pussy Riot Three has only just turned 30, the two other women are under 25. Mercury is also the prankster, the trickster, and Uranus is a higher octave of that.

But this is also about Russia talking to herself. Both sides speak for Russia. It's a nation's internal dialogue. With the Sun in Gemini, Russia has the potential for a quite split personality. Let's hope it turns into a conversation and stops being a slanging match.

This youthful Uranus is approaching to the square to Pluto here. It's a pattern we've seen across the Middle East: youth challenges the establishment (Pluto in Capricorn) and gets squashed, Pluto is a jackboot and so far it seems to be winning. But it's not over yet. The Pussy Riot continues.

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I was inspired to write this post by this brilliant documentary about the women, which you can still watch on BBC iPlayer.

Pussy Riot's story reminds me especially of two things: the suffragettes and their brilliant campaigning and the Sex Pistols bollocks trial in the 1970s. The Pistols were prosecuted for this album cover. The trial was a farce, with bigwigs discussing whether bollocks was a swear word or just Anglo-Saxon. Like the Riot trial, it simply made the establishment look stupid. The suffragettes brought attention to their cause through direct action, including chaining themselves to fences, smashing windows with hammers, persuading shops to use the suffragette colours Green Violet and White: Give Votes to Women, and hunger strikes. 

Yours, knitting an orange balaclava.




3 comments:

  1. Let's make Feb 21 "International Balaclava Day"!

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  2. I haven't done much research, astrological or otherwise, but I was curious to see Nadezhda Tolokonnikova's chart, since she's gone on hunger strikes and lashed out against her husband who was meaning well in representing them. Nov 7 1989. Speaks for itself.

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    Replies
    1. And it makes me wonder if it's her real birthday!

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