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Ekaterina Nenasheva being detained by police. Photo: Natalia Budantseva

Russian Artist Arrested for Wearing VR Headset in Moscow

Moscow-based artist and activist Ekaterina Nenasheva was arrested by authorities earlier this month for refusing to take off a virtual reality headset, which she was using to capture images of the city for her ongoing performance project “Between Here and There,” VR Scout reports.

Nenasheva has been wearing the VR goggles and walking around the city everyday since June 12 in order to document what daily life in Moscow looks like so that she can share the footage with psychiatric patients in clinics throughout the city. The artist had already visited Moscow’s subway, market, and old Arbat, Sadovy Ring Road, and the Crimean Bridge, among other places.

“‘In virtual reality one must not be in a public place. Here we have the real world,’ said police, grabbing me by the arms,” wrote Nenasheva on her Facebook page. She had been detained while exploring Red Square and was taken to a police precinct where she was interrogated about which reality she thought she was living in. The authorities accused her of being a danger to the public and then tried to force her to sign a form stating she was voluntarily admitting herself to a psychiatric hospital. When she refused, several people arrived to escort her to an institution where she explained her project to one of the doctors there. The psychiatrist told her that “he is also a creative person and writes poetry,” and does not see any reason to continue hospitalizing Nenasheva, but recommended that she should try “not to cross a certain line.”

Previously, Nenasheva and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, a member of Pussy Riot, had raised a Russian flag, in solidarity with prisoners, in central Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square. She also shaved her hair in Red Square to raise awareness around the plight of women prisoners.

“Russia has about 150,000 people in psychiatric clinics, which still use Soviet methods such as isolating patients from the outside world behind a concrete wall,” Nenasheva told Russia Beyond the Headlines. “What happens to a person who, because of his or her life circumstances, lives in isolation? What happens to their perception, body, and relation to surrounding spaces? Together with psychiatric patients we study these issues on the streets of Moscow.”

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