Admit it, we’ve all done it, drawn a comedy penis that is, but when the canvas used is the Liteiny draw-bridge in St Petersburg the penis is 65m tall and 27m wide and the intended target is the local headquarters of the KGB’s successors, the Federal Security Service (FSB) – Russia’s intelligence agency – the stakes are significantly raised. This was one of the provocative actions of the controversial Russian art group called the Voina (War) collective. According to a statement from the group’s website they did it in order, “to show what the Federal Security Bureau and Interior Ministry are doing in terms of security for an international economic forum held in St Petersberg.”
Two of the groups members are now in prison awaiting trial on several charges of “hooliganism” after they participated in a series of stunts which included overturning several police cars with the aim of drawing attention to the brutality and corruption of the Russian police. The art group say that Leonid Nikolayev and Oleg Vorotnikov are now languishing in under-heated cells that are “dark as coffins” and attempts to send them warm clothes have failed. They face up to 7 years in prison for their crimes.
Banksy first heard about Voina in October via the BBC Radio 4 program “From Our Own Correspondent“, when journalist Lucy Ash traveled to Russia to interview the art group. He decided to help raise funds for the imprisoned members and draw attention to their plight by donating all of the royalties from his most recent print release to the group. The print sales raised an impressive sounding 4.5 million roubles (approximately £90,000).
There are 18 colourways of the print called “Choose Your Weapon” that were released in several ways, including a VIP launch for the extra special Gold and Silver editions, in-store releases at POW HQ in East London and at the Marks & Stencils pop up show in Soho as well as an online lottery.
ABOVE: Gold and Silver versions of Banksy’s Choose Your Weapon print and some of the other colorways.