Pussy Riot Readings: JD Samson

We speak to the musician from feminist bands Le Tigre and MEN about last night's support event in New York

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Last night, on the eve of Pussy Riot's sentencing, a group of prominent feminist artists gathered for Free Pussy Riot, a free public reading in support of the the three women charged with hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred for their 'punk prayer' in a Moscow cathedral. In the small candlelit basement of the Ace Hotel in New York City, Karen Finley, Johanna Fateman, Justin Vivian Bond, Eileen Myles and Chloe Sevigny took turns reading aloud song lyrics, essays, letters and court statements from these women that made beautifully articulate remarks not only on their detention but also the fallacy of their conviction and the larger sociopolitical grievances of Russian bureaucracy. It was extremely moving to behold these writings, and to be reminded that art can be a force; both to spark change and then activate it.

Seeing them get put in jail for what I get paid to do was really incredible to me and I feel like they would do this for me; they would go out there and create visibility and get the world to support. I figured it was my responsibility to do as much as I could, so I've literally spent 24 hours a day on Pussy Riot

Art in this case is the force that magnetises eyes and concern, arousing political awareness and focusing a beam of energy on the Russian court where these women will stand trial, in full transparency with the support of the world behind them. Maria Alyekhina, in her closing court statement (read aloud by Justin Vivian Bond), remarked: "My inner freedom no one can take from me. It lives and will live on through the word, thanks to openness, when thousands of people will read it and hear." We had a word with organiser JD Samson (of feminist music groups Le Tigre and MEN) about creating the event and enacting feminist solidarity worldwide. Pussy Riot will find out their fate around 3pm local time (11.00 GMT) today.

Dazed Digital: So you organised this event, in conjunction with Robert Lieber from www.freepussyriot.org, what inspired you to form this reading?
JD Samson
: I've been speaking out in support of pussy riot since the beginning, when they were put in jail, so for me it's always been very close to home. Obviously being in a performance art project that is based completely in activism and conceptual art is something that really speaks to me, so it's like looking at my sisters across the ocean. Seeing them get put in jail for what I get paid to do was really incredible to me and I feel like they would do this for me; they would go out there and create visibility and get the world to support. I figured it was my responsibility to do as much as I could, so I've literally spent 24 hours a day on Pussy Riot. It's been really intense trying to get people to support them trying to get people out there and also get legal representation and all kinds of stuff and it's been really inspiring for me, doing something that I love and care about and just feels right.

DD: With an event like this, where it's a very intimate and closed setting, what kind of message do you hope that people who can't be here get from this?
JD Samson: Something that I really need to try to do is not put my voice into Pussy Riot, it's their voice that needs to be heard. The history of feminism aims to not only share other women's stories but to give them their own voice, and so, for myself, it was really important to just read their words and not have a show that was a bunch of bands playing songs about their girlfriend. I really wanted to create a space that was truly theirs and for us to embody them and try and let people know exactly what's going on from their hearts.

DD: Their writing is so eloquent!
JD Samson: They're so much smarter than I am, I had to do it that way.

Read all of Pussy Riot's court statements, letters and essays here. More about the trial here.

Photos by Mark Kendall

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