Music | Story by Lissa Townsend Rodgers
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Oppressed Revolutionary Showdown: Pussy Riot vs. Kanye West

Two of Life Is Beautiful’s marquee names are known for far more than their music. Kanye West has called himself “the next Nelson Mandela” and says he is “on a track to do something even bigger” than the legendary civil rights leader. Meanwhile, Pussy Riot, who will appear at LIB as part of the Learning Series, has always used their music to support their political message. “The shortcomings of consumer society do disturb us, but we’re not looking to destroy consumer society,” Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova has said. “Freedom is at the core of our ideology.”

So who really wants a revolution? You decide …

Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot

Kanye West

Kanye West

Wear homemade knit balaclavas that encourage solidarity and help to conceal their identify from repressive and vindictive government. Necessary Disguise Wears a series of bejeweled, custom-made Maison Martin Margiela facemasks. The masks are adapted from pieces featured in the couture houseís fashion shows.
Current president, former prime minister and general maximum leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Putin has said of Pussy Riot: “We have red lines beyond which starts the destruction of the moral foundations of our society. If people cross this line, they should be [held] responsible in line with the law.” Archenemy International luxury design house Louis Vuitton. According to Kanye, when he asked to meet with the head of the fashion house, the response was, “Why should we meet with you?” Kanye has since made anti-Vuitton tirades a feature of his concerts (while still carrying a full set of LV-logoed luggage). To date, no one at Louis Vuitton has made any public comment about Kanye.
In 2012, Pussy Riot stages a guerilla performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, performing their “Punk Prayer” when services are not in session. Pussy Riot members Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are sentenced to two years in Russian prison camps, which are known for freezing temperatures, inedible food, unsanitary conditions and forced labor. Legal Repercussions In 2013, Kanye gets in a scuffle with paparazzi at Los Angeles International Airport. He’s sentenced to anger-management classes and community service, and ordered to replace damaged camera equipment. To fulfill his community service, Kanye is teaching at L.A. Trade Technical College–”teaching,” as in giving rambling two-hour lectures on Tupac, Steve Jobs and the Illuminati.
Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are denied the usual delayed sentences given to mothers of young children in Russia. Police even threaten to place Aloykhina’s son in an orphanage. During their two years in prison camp, they rarely see their kids. Children’s Issues Baby North accompanies her parents to tapings of Jimmy Kimmel’s late-night show and attends couture runway shows dressed in transparent black lace Givenchy outfits that match mommy’s. Says Kanye: “We’re going to fight to raise the respect level for celebrities so that my daughter can live a more normal life.”
In prison, Tolokonnikova is forced to sew more than 300 police uniforms for 17 hours a day. Those who do not meet production quotas are reportedly beaten and starved. She goes on a hunger strike and is eventually hospitalized for exhaustion. The Tyranny of Fashion In 2012, Kanye releases his own fashion line to the world’s tepid response. Of course, he took to the airwaves to berate other designers for not taking him seriously. Apparently, the fact that fur failed to sell in a spring-summer collection was because of haters, not heat.
While attempting to perform during this year’s Sochi Olympics, members of Pussy Riot are whipped, beaten and tear-gassed by Cossacks. They are then detained by police for 10 hours. Unappreciated Performances Playing to 15,000 fans in a Brooklyn arena, Kanye goes into a lengthy monologue lamenting that “nobody that runs Disney comes and sees this tour” or gives him “one little, little, little chance.”
A fan is arrested at a talk Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina are giving at Harvard in 2014. The fan had been banned from campus for protesting Putin during a classical music concert. Tolokonnikova, Alyokhina and a few dozen fans go to the police station and spend a night in jail in a show of support. Audience Participation At a 2014 concert in Australia, Kanye announces that he will not continue playing until everyone stands up. Two who don’t comply with the request are required to prove their inability to stand via prosthetic limb and wheelchair.

Pussy Riot speaks as part of the Learning Series at 4 p.m. Friday at the Western Hotel.

Kanye West plays at 10:35 p.m. Friday on the Downtown Stage.