Nadya Tolokonnikova at the opening of So it Goes at Stoke Newington's Hang Up Gallery. Photograph: Russell Parton
Nadya Tolokonnikova at the opening of So it Goes at Stoke Newington’s Hang Up Gallery. Photograph: Russell Parton

“We have a new challenge and a new injustice to fight,” declared Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot, standing on a box to address a tightly packed crowd at Hang-Up Gallery in Stoke Newington yesterday evening.

The Russian punk singer and activist flew over from Moscow to premiere the video of ‘Refugees In’, the new Pussy Riot single, at the opening of the Connor Brothers’ exhibition So it Goes at Hang-Up’s new gallery space on Stoke Newington High Street.

The Connor Brothers, London artists Mike Snelle and James Golding, got to know Pussy Riot following a lecture delivered by Tolokonnikova at Cambridge University last year, and collaborated with the band by producing their concert at the closing of Banksy’s Dismaland in September.

Now they have started an NGO with the band to tackle the refugee crisis, and part of the exhibition details the artists’ experiences in ‘The Jungle’ refugee camp in Calais.

A swarm of art buyers, artists and the odd celebrity spotter filled the gallery space, discussing the art works and quaffing flutes of Prosecco whilst waiting for the main event of the evening.

Gallery goers at So it Goes
Gallery goers at the So it Goes opening. Photograph: Russell Parton

Aired towards the end of the evening, the video showed members Pussy Riot members caged and masked whilst a battle ensued between protesters and riot police.

In a speech before the screening, Tolokonnikova, who went on hunger strike in a Russian prison whilst serving a two-year sentence for performing a ‘punk prayer’ inside Moscow’s cathedral, called the refugee crisis “the defining issue of our generation”, and quoted Gandhi, saying: “Whatever you do [in life] will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.”

Apologising for having to read from a piece of paper, Tolokonnikova added: “This crisis is not something to be afraid of, it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves what humanity is capable of.”

“Innocent people are fleeing war, hunger and persecution by brutal dictatorships.

“They have undertaken epic and life-threatening journeys from their home countries in the hope of finding refuge and safety.

“We cannot and must not turn our backs on them, we cannot allow our elected representatives to place a monetary value on human lives. It is our ethics and not our economics that must be our guiding principle.”

After visiting Calais in August and witnessing the living conditions of refugees, the Connor Brothers subsequently sold an edition of prints in collaboration with Hang-Up to raise money to provide aid.

The artists now plan to sell a third limited edition charity print this month to raise further funds to build additional shelters when they return to The Jungle with Pussy Riot in December.

So it Goes is at Hang-Up Gallery, 81 Stoke Newington Road, London N16 8AD until 6 December
hanguppictures.com

Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself by The Connor Brothers
‘Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself’ by The Connor Brothers

 

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