I came to St. Petersburg, Russia, last week. I struggled with whether to make this journey or not. Those who know me understand this even more clearly. It comes from my "love" for this country, perhaps. "Love" and love. Polish/Russian history, my great-grandfather who escaped from Siberia, and my time in jail because I dared to defend myself against the sexual aggression of a drunk Russian man.
Many of my favorite writers were Russians, masters of camouflaging real events with fantastic images and elaborate narratives. They made me spend countless hours in my bedroom reading under the cover of my blanket, inspiring me to fight for what I stand for. I am pretty sure I was not able to understand Dostoevsky, Bulgakov, or Nabokov (to mention a few) then, and I am constantly discovering new layers of meaning and truth in their literature.
The recent government decision regarding gay rights in Russia made me want to boycott the country. Then, at a dinner with my three best friends, who happen to be gay, we all agreed that Olek is not a pu***. I should take the opportunity that Galeria presented to make a statement in solidarity with Russia's people, and to prove that Russia's rainbow combines more than just three colors.
Upon arrival in Russia, one of the first things I saw was a street poster with a rainbow that read, "Beauty in the name of kindness." In this country the rainbow evokes positive and negative associations. Under the cape of night, I transformed the façade of Galeria, a shopping center, into an explosion of rainbow. The beauty of public art is that it speaks to everyone. The ordinary person is able to experience and take something from it, even if only a smile. The truth is that most people here do not smile. I went to a supermarket to buy some water, red bulls, and sauerkraut. I like looking at people; their faces tell so much. It breaks my heart to see so many people just staring at the ground, dreamless, sad, not thinking about the future that they might have if they would only open their hearts and eyes. I may not be able to change it with a single installation, but I will plant a seed.
I believe my work speaks on its own. It is clear: sometimes words, sometimes colors, sometimes both. Will they see it? Or will the camouflage hide the true shape of its meaning? Or will a people, blindfolded by their leaders, be able to shed their blinders and see clearly that freedom only exists when all are free, to speak, to protest, to act, and to love?
In New York City I created the camouflage pattern. I transformed the human form into a new species. Once a person enters the crocheted skin, their race, color, ethnicity, even sexuality become irrelevant, camouflaged; they are transformed into citizens of Olek's world, where everyone is free.
My camouflage, hand-crocheted rainbow stands for love, freedom, friendship, independence, liberty, ability to pursue dreams, integrity, and equal rights.
"Homesexuality is not a sickness." A man holding this sign in St. Petersburg was arrested.
I am here to support the rights of all people, our freedom to be whoever we want to be, who we truly are, to love whomever we choose and marry whomever we love.
Inequality is not in my vocabulary.
Enjoy my work.