Oleg Vorotnikov

Czech Police Searching for Elusive Dissident Artist Who Fled Russia

Czech police are searching for the dissident Russian artist Oleg Vorotnikov, a member of the group known as Voina, saying he has “violated the commitments he made in court for not being taken into custody last year,” according to the Prague Monitor.

Vorotnikov and his fellow Voina members famously painted a phallus on a drawbridge facing Russia’s secret service headquarters in Saint Petersburg, and also overturned police cars. In turn, Russia brought charges against him and Leonid Nikolayev, another artist in the collaborative. Vorotnikov and his wife fled to the Czech Republic, which had initiated extradition proceedings and briefly detained him. He was then released after pledging in Czech courts neither to leave the country nor to evade extradition.

Now, apparently, his whereabouts are unknown. “He has failed to come to a questioning three times and he was not accessible at the address where he pledged to be in court,” Stepanka Zenklova—a spokeswoman for the Prague State Attorney’s Office—has reportedly said.

Five years ago, Voina members were notably named associate curators of the seventh Berlin Biennale; while reviewing the festival, Jakob Schillinger noted in Artforum’s Summer 2012 issue that “Voina lead an underground existence so as to be able to live up to a concept of art that includes burning police cars and painting a two-hundred-foot-long penis on the Liteyny drawbridge . . . . Voina’s work is most radically and, arguably, most successfully ‘exhibited’: Their appointment as associate curators has increased the visibility of their interventions and provided communication channels in the form of interviews, news coverage, and a statement within the biennial’s press package. Furthermore, Voina profit from the biennial’s financial resources and legal support, while continuing their practice within its original context and according to their customary method—without bothering to actually curate, let alone come to Berlin.”