Vakula is changing the artwork to a recent EP depicting Peggy Gou, Nastia, Nina Kraviz and The Black Madonna following criticism this week.
Per Aspera Ad Astra was released in February by Croatian label Barba Records under Mikhaylo Vityk's Rocco Siffredi alias, named after an Italian adult-film actor. The three tracks are titled "Per Penis Ad Astra," "The Elements" and "CODE P." The illustration, by Wanda Kuchvalek, features the four DJs captaining a penis-shaped spaceship. Vakula captioned the art on Instagram, "I dedicated this project to my beloved women, where we tried to portray the most beautiful dick that those girls on the cover could ever meet," including "#fuckthesystem" among the hashtags. (He has since made his Instagram private, but screenshots are here in English and Russian.)
While Vakula announced the record on Instagram on March 1st, word of the artwork only spread wide after Nastia shared her disgust with it on Instagram yesterday. She also detailed having sexist interactions with him in the past: "When I met him in 2015, he seriously told me I am shitty and not even a DJ, but if we come together he can teach me... I always knew he [was] such an arrogant and lost sexist, and simply idiot, who believes he is [the] one and only artist—comparing himself with Theo Parrish, but I didn't expect he [would] go that far... His [biggest] problem is that he can't handle our success." She closed, "Can't tag him here because he banned me last year."
In response to Nastia, Vakula commented under her post, "I love my ladies, my queens. All I see now is sexism in the opposite direction." He also shared screenshots of her statements in a separate Instagram post and said he will be changing the artwork "out of respect for the artists."
This artwork was designed in collaboration with my friend. My vision was to call attention to the exploitative nature of the music industry. It was not done with any disrespect. I hold the vision of the music industry becoming focused on fame, money not music and it makes me sad to see it go this way. Out of respect for the artists named in Nastia's previous post, I will ensure the artwork is amended.The hashtags underneath that Instagram caption read, "#art #peggygou #nastia #ninakraviz #blackmadonna #sexism #nosexism #reversesexism #hate #illusion #usingthefame #music?"
The Black Madonna also expressed her disdain towards the artwork on Twitter today, calling it "fucked up" and "low." In a statement to Resident Advisor, Marea Stamper explained that she was never contacted by Vakula or his team about the artwork and said it was harmful to women in the industry.
Framing a group of successful women in dance music along with imagery of a porn star famous for brutalising women and performing simulated rape and forced sexual contact on your album cover without notifying us or asking for consent is wrong in so many ways that I can't list them all. No one needs this. We're all just trying to do our jobs as best we can. We are wives and mothers and creators and label owners. This is absolute bullshit, but it is the most extreme end of the kind of toxic, misogynist culture that women have to deal with every day. Vakula can go fuck himself along with anyone in this industry, man or woman, who thinks this is OK or funny. It's not a joke. It's a tacit threat and a warning shot that women shouldn't get too successful in dance music.
Update: Vakula posted another statement to Facebook on Saturday, calling out The Black Madonna and RA by name. "There was nothing but a joke in this beautiful cover," he wrote. "I have no problems with women in my environment." He goes on to call the reaction "absolutely absurd" and accuse The Black Madonna of "gossip[ing]" and "spread[ing] lies." Read the full statement.
Saturday afternoon, Peggy Gou shared a "message to misogynist Vakula" on Instagram. "I am sorry, but not sorry, if you are too insecure to handle successful women," she said. "You can go and fuck yourself." She ends with a critique of the illustration: "I am actually not angry, I'm more disappointed that you couldn't do a better job in drawing me."
Nina Kraviz has not publicly acknowledged the EP artwork.