Sep 9, 2012
We all know that artists are often politically minded people, and that much art is intended, on some level or another, to communicate political ideas. But we all also know that works of political art, regardless of whether or not they succeed artistically, usually fail to directly accomplish much of anything politically. The paintbrush is not often mightier than the sword.
A couple of months ago, artwork on the streets of Yekaterina, Russia, a city of almost two million people about a thousand miles east of Moscow, got the political job done. The city fathers of Yekaterina–the regional governor, the mayor, and the vice-mayor–had all been elected on promises to repair potholes and other problems in the city's badly deteriorating roadways. Once in office, however, they seemed to lose interest; despite citizen complaints, the potholes just kept getting worse and worse.
One dark night in July, Yekaterina artists took to the streets of center city and painted portraits of the three well-known politicians with wide-open mouths surrounding three of the worst potholes. They documented their work with a video that they posted to a popular local website; an English-language video about their video is here.
The next day, the potholes were fixed and the portraits scrubbed from the pavement. Officials denied that the artwork had anything to do with the sudden burst of municipal maintenance.
Yekaterina was already a city with a certain artistic sensibility; in addition to their potholes, the downtown streets feature a bronze monument to Michael Jackson.