Quotes from an interview with Lonia Jebnięty (engl.: Leo the Fucknut), one of the member of the Voina Group from Russia

This text is an abridged version of the interview "Yes, the Truth is With Us", which will be published in the first publication of the 7th Berlin Biennale.



Lonia Jebnięty (engl.: Leo the Fucknut)

For me everything started last New Year’s Day, which was when I met Oleg and Koza. It was December 31, and on every 31 of the month in Russia people organize protests in support of article 31 of the constitution, which is devoted to the freedom of assembly. In Moscow people get together and protest on Triumph Square. Many are arrested by the police. I showed up at the demonstration with a Christmas tree, and ended up arrested with that tree. They were trying to take it away from me, but I screamed that I won’t let go. I walked into the van for those arrested, banged it on the floor, and shouted: Happy New Year! In the bus, we had everything that people brought along to the protest: alcohol, tangerines, and, well, a Christmas tree. We were released three hours later, so I went to celebrate the New Year. This is when I met Oleg and Koza. When they told me about what they do, I immediately said, “Great! Now I’ll be working with you.” And they immediately agreed.




We don’t buy our food, and we don’t pay rent. In general, we don’t use money. Though I can’t say it never happens. Once we had to pay bail to get ourselves released from jail. But our first rule is: not to use money.




The origins of bad government lie in a passive society which is unable to define its own problems or even see them. In addition, the state acts as a censor, preventing independent media from developing. While a political statement in the form of an artistic gesture quickly resolves all of these problems. Nobody listens to politicians speaking. But if it’s us, artists, the message immediately bangs you on the head. People appreciate our actions that provoke strong reactions. This is how we win them over to our side. We act violently and directly, so that the media can’t ignore us — what they do instead is distort information and efface the political content. But that’s pointless, as the politics returns anyway. If the media turn to us directly, we always declare that our activity is political and it’s not about scandal.




We act directly because it’s an issue of emotion. Our actions are both art and politics that are inextricably related. Making divisions into pure art and art that is politically active is wrong. Undoubtedly, our art is an ongoing political statement. My own actions have their roots in civil-protest movements. For an activist, politics and society are the most important things. But as a way of action, art dominated my thinking the moment I joined Voina. Some people try to protect us, claiming we’re artists and that is why we shouldn’t be persecuted. That’s not a good approach. We’re innocent not because we’re artists, who shouldn’t be subject to repression, but because what we do is right. We adopt a political and social attitude and take responsibility for it. We don’t want extra-special treatment just because we’re artists. We speak sharply. As soon as we left prison we announced that we’re active again. So you should expect the unexpected. We’re not running away anywhere, we will act, and it will be art.


From the Polish by Krzysztof Kosciuczuk

10th Berlin Biennale