Did This Artist Go Too Far?

HOW MUCH RIGHT DOES AN ARTIST HAVE TO QUESTION the meaning of historical monuments and symbols, such as “eternal flames”? Anna Sin’kova is a Ukrainian artist who fried eggs and sausages over the eternal flame monument in Kiev. She was arrested and faces up to five years in prison.

Sin’kova is charged with desecrating a grave, but she says, “The eternal flame is not a grave, it’s a propaganda memorial for a totalitarian communist regime.” [Source].

Artists do and say a lot of things to make their political points. A good piece of political art must be clear and bring a forceful message, and one that’s clearly understood by those viewing it. First, as a piece of art, does Sin’kova’s form and action get her point across? What meaning does cooking over this flame bring?

Critics of Sin’kova’s actions cried “blasphemy,” and “disrespect,” for the World War II soldiers who are honored by the monument. The artist defends her actions by saying the monument is a propaganda tool invented by the Kremlin. One could argue that all such monuments are propaganda created by governments.

Most importantly, however, did Sin’kova break any laws? And does she deserve to be arrested, and have her free speech curtailed, for a piece of [possibly] bad art?

Here’s a video of Sin’kova’s performance art piece:

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3 thoughts on “Did This Artist Go Too Far?

  1. I think that to desecrate a grave, you have to actually vandalize it or do something that actually requires it to be repaired. Cooking on a flame does no actual damage to the site. If it is blocked off and people are not supposed to climb onto it the way she did, then she might face trespassing charges or something like that. But 5 years in jail is excessive. If people were jailed for doing things that are in questionably bad taste then we would all get jail time.

    • The authorities’ reaction is extreme. She clearly touched a nerve with the police and the government, and there is definitely something there about lingering totalitarian attitudes. There’s certainly no guaranteed safety for artists to work and make a statement.

      Thanks for your comment!

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