Russian President Vladimir Putin's public appearances seldom fail to attract publicity and stir up conflicting emotions, but one Russian artist has transformed the country's leader, quite literally, into a powerful speaker.
Sculptor Petro Wodkins' "Sound of Power" project has designed and produced a wireless speaker, disguised as a handmade bust of the Russian leader. The bust is produced in Wodkins' studio in Sweden using composite marble, and depicts Putin dressed in a business suit with a large medal on his lapel.
The artist describes the bust as "harsh looking but smooth sounding," and has called it "St. Vladimir." Wodkins has produced 100 units of the speaker system in honor of the Russian leader's 63rd birthday last week and is selling them at a retail price of 1,111 euros ($1,267) each, while the first and last busts of the batch were sold at auction.
Wodkins explains that the medal is a facsimile of the Order of St. Vladimir, to illustrate Putin's devotion to Russia's traditionalist Orthodox Church. Speaking to Newsweek, Wodkins says that he hopes the project will make people reconsider their conception of those in power.
"I'm not really promoting any particular opinion with this artwork, but rather urge people to question their beliefs and senses," he says. "Let's take Putin as an example. He's been very successful in promoting one clear and consistent image of himself, I'm not saying this picture is less true than pictures of any other famous person, but it's very one dimensional."
Instead Wodkins has given Putin a revamp and in doing so created artwork which he believes will have more impact on people than items in a museum. "The difference is made when people interact with the artwork," he says. "I call it useful art."
According to Wodkins, the first bust produced was sold to a buyer in Kyoto, Japan who bid 6,500 euros ($7,400), and the last was bought by someone in Oslo, Norway for 4,200 euros ($4,790). Buyers can also commission a St. Vladimir bust themselves from the Sound of Power website.
While Wodkins boasts that "Vladimir Putin has never sounded this good," thanks to the speaker system's 20W amp and bluetooth connectivity, those wishing to experience the product in action may have to resort to watching videos of it.
The Sound of Power's next project will be a similar product, but this time using the face of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to Russian business channel RBC. Wodkins says that he wants to revamp the image of those in power and "play the people who play the world. This is what I offer my audience in this artwork, a chance to get even."
A Kremlin spokesperson did not immediately respond to Newsweek's question if they would consider purchasing one of Wodkins' speakers.
Putin's face has previously been emblazoned on numerous products and last year a privately commissioned bust of him dressed as a Roman Emperor was installed in the outskirts of St. Petersburg.Try Newsweek: Subscription offers