Nadya Tolokonnikova on NFTs with social messages (and shock value)

Why the world needs Pussy Riot right now.


IMAGES @nadyariot

The NFT space can be a hive of creativity, head-turning antics, and hype. In December 2021, Nadya Tolokonnikova from Pussy Riot, a feminist punk group of Russia-based activists, dropped her ‘Drink My Blood’ NFT on social token community Friends With Benefits. Tolokonnikova’s conceptual art piece comprised a digital copy of her prison papers (acquired back in 2013 when she was imprisoned for singing a song in church) splashed with drops of her blood, a vial filled with her actual blood and a Pussy Riot song ‘Anthem’. The NFT sold for 89.69 ETH. 


Tolokonnikova is no stranger to creating striking work centred on digital activism. In an NFT Now podcast, she says “stepping into the NFT space made me realise that there are people with capital who care about human rights issues. It’s a great tool for building connections with people who care.”

“It’s so important for activists not to look away from new technology, and even if some things are scary, just go there and confront it.”

Pussy Riot was established in 2011. The group’s objective, Tolokonnikova says, is to empower women and the LGBTQ community. “The goal is to make sure all genders are treated equally and that they have equal opportunities,” she adds. 


Big transformations can happen when the right groups of people get together. This seems to be the case with Tolokonnikova and her band of activists who she describes as “people who think about the future a lot and also people who think about activist issues”. 


She continues, “NFTs came into my life through friends who like me are at the intersection of art and activism. I’m in a position to think about ethics for most of my life, and I’m in a position to make sure that we collectively don’t die from using technological tools.”

Instruments for change

In March 2021, Tolokonnikova dropped her first NFT. The piece was called ‘Panic Attack Terrestrial Paradise’, which was released on Foundation, with climate change as the central theme and sold for 100 ETH.


This initial success led her to take the following stance. “It’s so important for activists not to look away from new technology, and even if some things are scary, just go there and confront it,” she shares. 


Equally, Tolokonnikova believes that the combination of ethics and technology holds immense power, one with which “we can create a great new future”. But she also considers the counterpoint: “If we don’t apply ethics to technology then I don’t know where we will go. We might as well destroy ourselves as a species. So it’s super important for me to be in this intersection of activism and technology. This is how I learned about NFTs.”

Social power of NFTs

The notion of bringing values to the NFT space is also one she believes in. “If you bring your values to the space, there is a big chance that people will listen. My bet was to step in and do good. We sent a big portion of the sale [of my first NFT] to a shelter for victims of domestic violence in a part of southern Russia where women are still treated as furniture. In that region of the country, if you smile at strangers, you bring shame to the family. We were able to bring some of those women to Moscow and, from there, overseas because that is a safe space for them,” Tolokonnikova says. 


By doing so, a new, decentralised and kinder (version) of Russia is being built. “We are pretty effective in building this alternative network. That’s why I’m excited about crypto because these tools are helping us go beyond and go even bigger,” she adds. To build on this, Tolokonnikova, along with Pussy Riot, is setting up PussyVerse, an NFT platform which will promote up-and-coming female NFT artists.


Tolokonnikova is excited about NFTs as they “can be great instruments of change”. She poses this question in the same NFT Now podcast: what if someone who creates NFTs channels 20 [to] 30 percent of [the sale] to causes they are passionate about? “I feel this can change so much [of the world],” she says.