Street art in St. Petersburg faces the problem of creative freedom due to the inability to coordinate with local authorities. We, the art group Yav, have been actively creating oppositional street art since 2015, facing censorship and detention. In 2020, we developed the concept for Seven Deadly Sins aimed at shedding light on the pressing issues of Russian authorities, but we encountered censorship.
Our response to the limitations of artistic expression was the use of augmented reality. We created the mobile app AR Hunter for Android and iOS, providing artists and activists the opportunity to place their works in augmented reality. In 2020–2021, with the help of augmented reality, we restored a large number of destroyed oppositional street art in many Russian cities and continue to do so.
Returning to the project Seven Deadly Sins of Russia in 2021, we presented it in our AR Hunter app, choosing a conceptual approach. The sins of Russia are depicted as matryoshka dolls, symbolizing hidden problems of Russian authorities: corruption and greed of officials and police, police lawlessness, intolerance towards LGBT+, denial and envy of Western values, and the lies of state media. Three of the seven sins were presented in the historical center of St. Petersburg, while the remaining four were in the heart of Moscow. Visitors using our AR Hunter app can see bold oppositional street art works on building façades in the two Russian metropoles. Thanks to the use of building photos as markers, these works can only be destroyed by demolishing the buildings or blocking the app, which Google Play and App Store will not allow.
The project attracted media attention and achieved its goal: to make Russian citizens think about what is happening in their country. Also, in February 2023, we restored artists’ anti-war works that had been destroyed in 2022 and presented them to the residents of Norway using augmented reality through our AR Hunter app.
Art Group Yav – Anastasya Vladychkina (RU), Alexander Voronin (RU)
The Art Group Yav uses art to address social issues and establish dialogue. We address themes of feminism, gender violence, decolonization, antiwar and opposition to dictatorship, and the value of science. Since 2015 we have been active in protest street art, using different means of implementation. We are driven by a desire to make the world a fairer and more open and free place. We use art to help people find hope and expression, helping them deal with trauma and fears. Our projects include actions and performances that draw attention to current issues.