It appears this post has stirred up some controversy. We are no stranger to that but the core members of the Pigtails staff feel there is a need for a disclaimer explaining why this item has been presented. Because of the philosophical bent of modern fascism, it should go without saying that we at Pigtails do not endorse or condone Zashtopic’s message. However, we do not ignore talent here and it would be foolish to put our heads in the sand and pretend this artist does not exist. It would be interesting to understand better the artist’s drive to produce this work and, in time, she may come to regret the folly of her youth and find herself subject to censorship as fashions change in her country. It should also go without saying that Pigtails is not promoting some kind of pro-pedophilia agenda. Pip has clearly stated in the accompanying text his disgust at this kind of didactic propaganda. The existence of this work is a cautionary reminder about the state of society which artists seem compelled to express and that we should never become cavalier about the power of imagery in the service of dehumanizing regimes. -The Staff
Although I have featured the work of far-right artists in the past (in my last big article, in fact), I have never focused on contemporary artists with far-right leanings, largely for two reasons: first, because the great majority of those artists simply do not produce work which fits the theme of this blog, and second, because, as a rule, I do not like to give any of Pigtails’ precious attention to fascists. But I vowed when I founded this blog that I would cover the gamut of on-topic work regardless of the social/political affiliations of the artists. In fact, I’d say that to be truly unbiased in terms of our coverage it was really inevitable that such an artist would be spotlighted here in time. Rest assured, this was not a decision I made lightly. If the contemporary artist in question had simply produced some bland one-off, or if he or she created images of little girls with some regularity but they were not particularly challenging or original, then I would likely have bypassed their work for something much more interesting.
But here is a contemporary fascistic artist who, for a number of reasons, could not simply be avoided. For one thing Katya Zashtopik, who goes by the online sobriquet Dopingirl, is not a complete unknown even here in the West (though she does remain completely underground here and is certainly controversial). Her work—comprised of illustration, photography and a little videography, sometimes in combination—has apparently been used in advertising and billboards in Russia, though you likely aren’t going to find any examples outside of that country. Furthermore, Zashtopik herself is young, thin and undeniably attractive, often modeling in her own work.
To some extent Zashtopik has created a real brand, with her signature pink and white capsule, sometimes decorated with plus and minus signs (a pill popper’s yin-and-yang) or flames, and her girl & crossbones logo . . .
. . . as well as a particular style in both her illustration and photography work which rests somewhere between cartoon cuteness, fashion mag elegance and unabashed sexual bravado, all of it tweaked by the sometimes sly and at other times conspicuous sheen of her far-right allegiances. If that wasn’t enough to make her stand out, how about tossing pedophilia into the mix? The most fascinating aspect of Dopingirl’s work, I think, is how she reconciles these seemingly disparate elements into a kind of fantasy world where tall, young, fashion-forward Nazi men date preteen girls and roam the European wastelands as a couple, coldly executing their enemies (and looking like Vogue advertisements while they do it) as the Grim Reaper looks on approvingly.
It’s a unique and chilling concept, and yet somehow it all feels of a piece. There’s always been something a little inherently fascist about high fashion (high fashism?), and the Nazis certainly fetishized the Aryan body. Moreover, Dopingirl simply takes early 19th century Europe’s obsession with youthful feminine beauty and cranks it up to eleven. As for the drugs, they are a fixture of pretty much all contemporary youth subcultures whether those subcultures are left-wing, right-wing or no-wing.
The pedophilic aspects, however, are something quite new, at least for modern incarnations of fascism, as pedophiles are usually at the top of the list of categorical enemies of the far right. I suppose if confronted, Dopingirl’s defenders might argue that the young girl in these images is actually just a stylized waifish young woman, and that argument might have some merit if not for the fact that Dopingirl’s primary muse and most frequent model is a little girl named Olya (last name unknown) whose relationship to Zashtopik is uncertain.
Zashtopik seems much too young to have a daughter of Olya’s age—between 6 and 11 in the images in which she appears—especially when you see them together:
My hunch is that Olya is a young sister. At any rate, it would be rather more sinister for a mother to present her daughter in such a sexualized manner than it would be for a big sister to present her younger sibling that way, though it’s arguably still pretty creepy. Although none of Dopingirl’s photos of Olya or the other little girls in her work were blatantly pornographic that I could see, several of her illustrations were (these images, which I will not share here, included fetishized urination and little girls performing fellatio on little boys—the worst one depicted a naked girl of about 12 licking a grown man’s testicles), and a few of them seemed to depict a more cartoonized version of Olya. Thus, Dopingirl’s work comes dangerously close to obscenity. Again, it isn’t clear that Olya is intended to be the model in those more cartoonish drawings, but there are some quite realistic ones, including a couple of nudes, where it is obviously her.
In one photo series, Olya, wearing a flesh-tone body suit similar to the one worn by dancer Maddie Ziegler in Sia’s Chandelier video, toys with a large albino python. In the Sia video the nude leotard was suggestive of a person being presented as raw and stripped of pretensions. In this case it’s a reference to Eve, the first woman, and her flirtations with the serpent Lucifer. The images are stylized, presented against a washed out background and endowed with a modish eroticism. Perhaps the only thing that saves these images from being straight up soft-core erotica is that there is an underlying theme here, a notion that, far from being the innocent victim, Eve was quite knowingly complicit in her dabbling with the devil. Presenting here as a child, then, is problematic.
Are these photos exploitative? I would say that in and of themselves they are not, but taken into context with the rest of Dopingirl’s work there is definitely a troubling quality to them. I’m not arguing that any of these images do not qualify as art, only that the overall picture painted by Dopingirl’s work is disturbing in ways that simple child nudes, even those that toy with an innocent sort of sexuality (as some of David Hamilton’s work does), are not.
In any other hands this next image would be charming and cute, but from Dopingirl it feels vulgar, as if she secretly approves of this young girl dolling herself up to look like a promiscuous young woman rather than the child she is. To Dopingirl this is not an innocent little girl playing dress-up; it’s a young whore in training.
This one too feels as if the artist isn’t so much commenting on a troubling youth trend as outright endorsing it.
Given the hardcore policy of artistic censorship in Russia, the brazenness with which Dopingirl continues to flaunt her pedophilic fantasy scenarios is rather astonishing . . . until one considers who’s in charge there. No doubt if her work had a left-wing bent she would’ve been censored (at the very least) long ago. But because it flatters the fascist-leaning Putin regime, Dopingirl is largely left alone. Such hypocrisy in the far right is historically well-documented. Even so, if I hadn’t done enough research to know that Dopingirl is deadly serious about her far-right values and her involvement in the fashion industry, I would swear the entirety of her output was pure satire. Unfortunately, it isn’t. I worry that she may effectively be pimping Olya, putting her on display for some day in the not-too-distant future when all the best Slavic guys now lining up for her can put in their bids. That day may come sooner than later.
Of course, the most problematic aspect of her work is its unsubtle acclamation of Nazism and especially a kind of sleek modern form of fascism. Notice in this next photo/illustration collage the reproductions of three painted portraits in the background of (from left to right) France’s far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen, US president Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin. The originals of these paintings are hanging in a right-wing affiliated pub in Moscow called the Union Jack. This appears to be Dopingirl’s office or workstation.
The sexualization of death is the most common theme recurring throughout Dopingirl’s work. Indeed, her Instagram is called Death and the Maiden, after the title of a play by Ariel Dorfman. In many examples of her illustration her little Aryan girl is hinted to be the sexual plaything of the grim reaper. It’s clever and repulsive . . . mostly repulsive.
Again, it would be easy to imagine that the world of Dopingirl’s illustration is an entirely separate venture from the photographic work if the evidence against this wasn’t so substantial. Here little Olya is seen not only indulging in gun-play but also kissing and fondling a chocolate skull. The truly disturbing part of this is Olya’s obvious and casual familiarity with the pistol, which she holds to her head in one image and feigns blowing her brains out by crossing her eyes. I, for one, do not find this particularly amusing.
Perhaps the most astute of Dopingirl’s symbolic illustrations depicts her little golden girl taking on the grim reaper’s mantle herself and looming gigantic over the city, as if she is embodying the Hindu god Shiva’s words, “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.”
But the image of Dopingirl’s that stays with me is this final one, a cartoonized girl’s head in an SS hat and a spiked collar attached to a leash. It reminds me that, at heart, fascists are about subjugation even of their own people. The girl drools, having been reduced to a slavering sex object. She does not look happy, and that’s as it should be, for, despite the gloss and glimmer of fascism’s appeal, in the end there is no real comfort in it for anyone but the soulless and the sadistic.