Skochilenko: The Price of Freedom
31 March - 29 April
56 Downshire Hill London NW3 1PA
Anna S., Dmitrii Moskovskii and Varvara have teamed up to co-curate and exhibit the works of Sasha Skochilenko, a Russian artist currently held in a detention facility for distributing anti-war information in a supermarket in St.-Petersburg, Russia. She has replaced the price tags of the goods on display with the lookalikes that included the information about the war crimes committed by the Russian Army in Ukraine Together with other activists from Russian Democratic Society in London Anna, Dmitrii and Varvara aim to amplify Sasha’s voice beyond the walls of the prison cell she has been spending the past year in.
The exhibition’s main message is: anti war activism within Russia is very much alive, but not well. Many activists have been assaulted, beaten up, fined or even imprisoned for simply speaking the truth. Sasha’s story is one of the most shocking and outrageous: the case filed against her is completely fabricated, or, as the old Russian proverb goes, “sewn with white thread”. She now faces 10 years in jail, and is currently being detained in the Arsenalka facility. Due to her health condition, Sasha requires regular medical monitoring and a special diet; both these basic needs she had to fight for.
The team is immensely grateful to the Koppel Project for offering one of their locations.
A location that couldn’t be more suitable for the cause: a former police station with most of its grim interiors still intact.
All of the artworks presented were created by Sasha when she was already arrested and transferred to the Arsenalka detention centre. The team obtained detailed scans of the artworks through Sasha’s partner Sonya. Sasha has been drawing almost daily, as this is one of the few creative activities she is allowed to do while in detention. By putting the artworks in the former solitary cells of the Hampstead police station the curatorial team aims to deliver their message loud and clear: freedom of speech can’t be muted, incarcerated or held hostage.
Each of the three team members has added a bit of their own perception to the installation, to emphasise that regardless of the physical space and legal hurdles between us, we maintain and strengthen connections, encourage dialogue and continue to create art together with the activists in Russia.
Anna created an art object metaphorically referencing the old proverb “the case was sewn with white thread”, metaphorically implying that Sasha’s case was fabricated.
Dimitri combined Sasha's work into one using recycled textiles and yarn.Some canvases that are heavy and dramatic and represent Sasha's experience, it is important to fully immerse yourself in this atmosphere.
And Varvara, together with Sasha’s mother Nadezhda and Sasha’s partner Sonya, brought snippets of the artist’s personal life into the exhibition space, immersing the viewer and attempting to show them the world through Sasha’s eyes.
Part of the exhibition space will be dedicated to the court proceedings materials, as well as letters exchanged between Sasha and her loved ones.
Work with thread and old fabric, embroidery on reused materials, and implementing upcycled materials are there for a reason: one of Sasha’s core values is caring about the environment and all the beings inhabiting the Earth. We have transferred this value into physical objects, as well as into the merch we have made by hand. By giving a new life to old fabrics we hope to get her message across.
By exhibiting Sasha’s artwork in solitary cells of a former police station, and giving her – albeit remotely – a platform to speak up, Anna, Dmitrii and Varvara aim to raise awareness of the atrocities the Russian government has been performing against its citizens, and support Sasha and other activists who are currently fighting against the regime despite being fully aware of the possible tragic consequences. Because true freedom will win, better sooner than later.
Throughout the exhibition there will be educational workshops, lectures, film screenings and discussions that revolve around Sasha’s core values: LGBTQ+ rights, anti-war activism movement, feminism and mental health. All donations and merch sale profits will be used to pay for Sasha’s medical needs and her lawyer’s work.