Venice Biennale: “The Member», a historical Performance-Intervention at the Russian Pavilion by Aleksey Yudnikov, 22.04.2022

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At this most dangerous juncture in European history since the Second World War, this vivid performance at the Venice Biennale painted a nuanced picture of our vulgar times.

A historical entry in the yearbook of the Russian Pavilion!

Artist: Aleksey Yudnikov
Curators: Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen
Production: Artists at Risk (AR)

Thank you to the journalists of The Art Newspaper, Der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, dpa, News dayFR, Peoples Gazette and many more for  publishing this story!


Aside on Artistic Freedom in Europe:

A troop of police in riot gear awaited the performance, hiding behind a corner of the Nordic Pavilion. During the second act, the artist was detained by plain-clothes policemen (apparently Carabinieri), but he managed to change back into the Fantomas character and although closely surrounding Yudnikov, they let him perform the third act. Immediately thereafter, however, he was escorted to a police department and held for more than 40 minutes in a closed room without recourse to a lawyer. We could not gain access to speak to him. Yudnikov reported that the police asked what he had said in Russian, during the second act (his Putin-Gopnik character). He responded that he had used foul language (he swore in the prison-slang typical of a Russian gopnik-thug). Interestingly, they followed up by asking whether he had criticised Italy or Italian politicians. When he answered in the negative, they quickly let him go. Is NOT criticising leaders a condition of artistic freedom in the EU today? In preparing this performance, we thought this was a Russian problem..


From the press Release:

“The Member»: A Very Short 3-Act Performance at the Russian Pavilion, Venice Biennale Concerning Ukraine and World Peace

59th Venice Biennale 2022
10.40am (circa), Friday 22 April, 2022
In the vicinity of the Russian Pavilion, Giardini, Venice

This short three-part performance in front of the Russian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale holds up an absurdist mirror to the horrific threat emanating from the Russia of Vladimir Putin.

Aleksey Yudnikov was born and raised in Ukraine, but made his name as an actor in Moscow — at the famed oppositional Teatr.doc among others. In more ways than one, Yudnikov follows in the footsteps of his compatriot Nikolay Gogol, the Ukraine-born literary giant who came to fame in the capital of the Russian empire of the 19th century.

Expect a performance as absurd and as incisive as the “The Nose” by Nikolay Gogol — which serves as its inspiration and model — in which the lowly official Major Kovalev wakes up one morning to find his nose has made itself independent of his face, and established itself as an official of high rank.

First, however, picture the figure of Fantômas, the sinister underworld genius of French cinema, popular in Soviet times. Fantômas appears not as the usual villain, but as a victim who asks the audience to listen to his problems, as if at a session of group psychology. He has truly horrific and truly embarrassing sexual problem. He is unsure whether he can regain his lost manhood. Worse, he does not know whether he actually wants it back!

His out-of-control manhood has gained independence, attached itself to a Russian “Gopnik” in sweatpants and an alcoholic’s tank-top with a gold chain. This horrific thug postures in a squat, threatening the whole world with nuclear war…

Aleksey Yudnikov is an Artists at Risk (AR) Resident at AR-Safe Haven Helsinki, after escaping Russia in late March, 2022.

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