“It’s Not Strange. You’re Just Not Used to it”

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This year Pussy Riot came back in a big way as a musical collective – although they never left. First, “Chaika” «ЧАЙКА» (Seagull), premiered in February. And in October, three new videos, with the most remarkable being “Make America Great Again,” looking more like a 2017 news report than an imaginary dystopia. Nadia “Tolokno” answered our questions regarding Putin, Trump, the past, and the future.

 

Trump has already seriously affected US and world politics – he has created a new standard in politics. He is impatient and always ready to explode, he insults his opponents and journalists, threatening to put those who stand against him behind bars. He isn’t ashamed to comment on women who don’t appeal to him as “fat pigs.” The women he does like, he just grabs their crotch.

Trump’s political idea of a “a strong leader,” are those such as Putin and Assad. Putin’s political scientist, Sergei Markov, a few hours after Trump’s win, told The Guardian, yes, we helped out a bit with the American choice with Wikileaks.

There’s the Russian dark force and the American one. Trump has woken the latter. He swept out the crumbs – complexes and fears –  from under the rug, as they were collecting for years. He’s made racism great again. He’s given confidence to his power and his righteousness to the white Americans who never truly agreed with the civil rights movement from the 1950s and 1960s, which proclaimed equality between people of different races.

For the white Americans who were infuriated by the influx of immigrants from Mexico, Asia, and India, following the liberalization of US immigration law in 1965. White Americans from small and rural towns experienced a loss due to globalization, which led to the erosion of the American middle class. And this is where it’s imperative to understand that Trump is only a symptom.

The ghost wanders around Europe (and America).The ghost of the ultra-right populism. Germany, France, Hungary, Great Britain, Scandinavian countries. The question is as follows: will we be able to find an alternative to the current version of globalism? The conservative politicians suggest building a wall at the border, banning abortions, climbing into a casket, closing the lid, and bolting it up from the inside. Are there better options?

 I know you decided to work with Jonas while you were still in prison. Is the idea and subject of the video yours, Akerlund’s, or is it a joint effort? How did you two get along?

We met with Jonas in 2014 – at that time I carried the idea of a video that would illustrate the parallels between the ideals of American Republicans’ retrogressive wing and the political system that Putin has built.

The kindling of fear towards others, failure to value gender equality, the censure of same-sex marriages, the desire to ban abortions and sexual education, but simultaneously focusing on religious education, subordinating, taking progress a step back.

From the Russian side, in the video, obviously there should have appeared a Putin type character. In the Republicans’ retrogressive wing there hadn’t been a bright, unifying figure. If only Sarah Palin, but she has been somewhat forgotten. There is a clear memory of her astonishingly idiotic participation in the 2008 presidential election. In 2014 there wasn’t a sufficiently cheeky, shameless, impudent, dirty American politician who would absorb all the most vile ideas of the retrogressive republicanism into one. In 2016 we got such a politician. Be careful what you wish for, as my cell mate  would tell me.

The plot of the clip is “Make America Great Again,” which we filmed May 1, 2016. Jonas came up with the idea of me playing all the parts, and made a papier-mâché (piñata) Trump doll that I tear apart.

Jonas paints his nails black, is attentive to his interlocutor – principled in questions of aesthetics. He doles out awkward glances (Swede!) He owns a church building in Sweden and is rebuilding it into his own house. The living room will be in the altar.

The styling was handled by Jonas’ wife, B. Akerlund. B. is responsible for my favorite Gaga looks, as well as those for Beyoncé and Madonna. She is talented, strict, loves white collars and ruffled knee-socks.

I’M A STRANGER EVERYWHERE I GO, NOTHING BELONGS TO ME. BUT ALONG WITH THIS, I OWN THE WORLD.


 You travel so much, which begs the thought that Pussy Riot’s revolution, is truly worldwide. Where are you right now and what are you doing?

Right now, I’m staying in Los Angeles for a week. We are writing song, petting a husky, and drawing.

I’m also looking for answers: How did it happen, that Putin managed to put together a band of ultraright, reactionary politicians – Trump, Le Pen, Orban? Why is half of American cheering Trump on? How does China view Russia? Why is the most humane and effective prison system in the world in Scandinavia, and how did they get there? What does it look like, that famous Protestant work ethic? Can one feel it?

Traveling helps in the search of answers. Sometimes. A trip teaches you to take in a different, incredible culture. It steers you away from the reckless condemnation of that which seems strange. No, it’s not “strange.” You’re just not used to it. I was born in the small, industrial, icy town of Norilsk. It’s like a different planet. Pluto. For Russians, I’m not even talking about foreigners. I came to Moscow when I was 16. Yea, I’m one of those people who were told that Moscow isn’t made of rubber. It was exactly for this reason I was seriously upset at one point. They don’t see me as one of their own and they never will, but do I need that? And I decided that, no, I don’t. I’m a stranger everywhere I go, and nothing belongs to me. But along with this, I own the world.

When I arrived to the Mordovian camp, they brought us to a room where the colony’s deputy head was conducting a survey of those arriving.

“Which town are you from?”

“Hm,” I hesitated, because I’m from Norilsk, but I’ve been living in Moscow since I’m 16. “A citizen of the world,” I said.

The deputy head didn’t like that. “You’ll be a citizen of the world behind the fence, an undead, but here in Mordavia, you are condemned.”

I kept insisting on my views. I corresponded with Zizek during my time in Mordavia. I received letters in Chinese. And no, I didn’t understand them, but I received them still.

 It’s very cool that Gera travels too. Has she already been to the US?

She has. Summer in LA – Disneyland, Universal Park, aquaparks and Death Valley. When Gera was four, while I was in jail, her and her dad Petya traveled to New York. She recently impressed me with the details from that trip. She remembers. I learn from her, how to look at the world. Openness, readiness, to take in the new, and agree to experiment. Permanently abolishing the idea of condemnation (except maybe for the condemnation of cooked onions). She tries to understand everybody. That’s how kids grow and learn, understanding and receiving the new – that which at first seems strange. The problem of the mature world, is that adults lose the enthusiasm and willingness to fall in love, and in the end, begin to act like cynical rams. In that moment, where you lose the two abilities – to be surprised and to sympathize – that’s when you become a cynical ram.

 With every year, you are inspired by the art and fight for the rights of all people, of all genders and origins. Why do you think it is that Pussy Riot’s ideas not only escape aging, but become more and more relevant with each day?

Thank you. I think some people become inspired by Pussy Riot exactly for the same reasons that it pisses others off: straightforwardness, frankness, reckless dilettantism.

 And the most important question: what makes you the happiest in life?

Reading. Music. My daughter Gera. The limitless nature of the universe. The willingness to fall in love with people and buildings. My trainer and the goal of learning how to do 30 pull-ups.

  Thank you!

Questions: Sasha Amato | Photo: Amanda Merten

Original article: http://www.interviewrussia.ru/music/nadezhda-tolokonnikova-eto-ne-nenormalno-prosto-ty-ne-privyk_

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