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And here is their answer: The Front Row Risk List. In the words of judge Will Self, the works should “deliver us from our utter complacency; this, for me, is the very essence of the risk all artists should take when they set out to make their works. I want this list to draw people’s attention to art works that will really shake them up, not simply flatter them with the idea that they’ve been shaken.”

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The first performance of Pussy Riot’s Punk Prayer took place without authorisation in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Saviour on February 21, 2012. A group of young women wrote and performed a song challenging the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Russian President Vladimir Putin in the country's recent elections. They dressed in brightly-coloured clothes and balaclavas and took themselves to the symbolic heart of the Russian Orthodox Church. By the evening a video of the performance had gone viral across the world and within days authorities had opened legal proceedings against the group which eventually saw members Maria Alyokhina, Yekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova handed two year prison sentences.

What the judges said:
This act of creative risk taking put three members of Pussy Riot in prison and attracted publicity around the globe for its audaciousness. These women knew the political risks and took every aspect of their performance – the lyrics, the location, the clothing, the use of social media – to the extreme. The risk these women took created a movement that travels right through to the pink pussy hats at the 2017 Women’s March around the world. It is the ultimate risky artwork of the 21st Century.

Pussy Riot Performance in Red Square

Members of Pussy Riot perform on top of stone plinth in Red Square, Russia

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In many ways the original reality TV series, Big Brother put 12 strangers in a house together, isolated them from the outside world and broadcast their every move 24 hours a day. The show was a competition where housemates were evicted by public vote until a winner was crowned at the end of the series.

What the judges said:
No one knew what would happen, least of all the housemates. This revolution in TV handed over control of the narrative from programme makers to the unpredictable behaviour of members of the public. This social experiment changed the way viewers consumed TV, created celebrities or villains out of its contestants, and initiated a lust for reality TV that continues unabated as formats get ever riskier and more extreme.

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Drill artists Skengdo and AM were given suspended sentences for their performance of the song Attempted 1.0 at London venue Koko in December 2018 after a police injunction had banned them from performing it in certain postcodes in London. The track details their experience of gang violence and the duo's performance at Koko marked the end of a successful tour. Knowing the risks, and choosing freedom of expression, the duo performed Attempted 1.0 and were issued with a suspended sentence. This is thought to be the first time in British legal history that a prison sentence has been issued for performing a song.

Selina Thompson in a publicity image for salt.

What the judges said:
Drill music exists in the already volatile world of street culture - these men were singing about real violence in their lives and Attempted 1.0 refers to a real attempted murder involving people they know. Black music has often been the subject of police attention as a means of tackling street violence. Skengdo and AM are an example at the most extreme of these two factors coming together to make their creative expression extremely risky for them personally.

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In researching this 2017 theatre work, Selina Thompson travelled as cargo in a container ship across the Atlantic to follow the slave ships that carried her ancestors. The resulting one-woman show reveals her personal trauma of trying to understand her birth family’s history, and the racism they experienced and that Selina still faces. Selina breaks up a huge lump of salt on stage, symbolising the exhausting physical work slaves were forced to undertake.

What the judges said:
The judges were impressed with the level of physical trauma and risk Selina put herself through in searching for the material for her show. She directly engaged with a traumatic past and racist present in a fearless way, sharing a deeply personal story night after night on stage. A real emotional and physical risk was taken in order to tell an important story.

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A deeply satirical musical: during an edition of his talk show, host Jerry Springer gets shot and travels through purgatory. Along the way he meets characters from the underworld who look remarkably like the guests he’s just had on his show. Amid accusations of blasphemy, the BBC Two broadcast of the stage show elicited some 55,000 complaints.

Mark McGowan performing Dead Soldier in Central Birmingham

What the judges said:
Richard Thomas and Stewart Lee were not afraid to offend anyone with this show. It took satire to a whole new level to expose the double standards they saw in society through the framework of The Jerry Springer Show. Outrageous and an unexpected combination of trash TV with opera, this show reminds us that, in a world of cancel culture, offence has more value than ever to help challenge our social mores.

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This comedy movie follows four British would-be terrorists dedicated to violent jihad as they prepare to be suicide bombers and launch an attack on London.

What the judges said:
Homegrown terrorism continues to be one of the most sensitive, highly politicised and racialised issues of our times. This film took national trauma and made us laugh at it. Additionally, for a white man to tell this story, Chris Morris challenged the conviction which many hold that you can only tell stories if you are from the same cultural background as your protagonists.

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At the height of the Iraq War, performance artist Mark McGowan, also known as Artist Taxi Driver, lay down in the street in Birmingham dressed in military fatigues to represent a dead soldier.

What the judges said:
Mark put his body at risk for his work. This work was performed in a public space outside of the protection of the gallery, with no way of knowing what the reactions of passers-by might be. Mark was kicked and shouted at for this work, which provoked a huge response from audiences some of whom found his anti-war message offensive.

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Beyoncé got political in this album which saw her foreground her blackness, directly reference slavery and closely align herself with the Black Panther movement. It was also a deeply personal album revealing her husband’s infidelity and its aftermath.

Fireworks mark the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics

What the judges said:
Beyoncé risked her huge fan base by making this move – #BoycottBeyonce was trending during her Superbowl performance of the song Formation. This megastar resisted the commercial pressure not to be political in order to stand up for what she believed in and let audiences into her personal life as never before. Who can forget “Becky with the good hair”?

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Hannah took homophobic hate crimes committed against her and made them into a show that challenged the very structure of comedy. Her refrain through the show – that she’s given up comedy – made the point that laughing at serious issues allows them to pass by unchallenged, and so perpetuates the problem.

What the judges said:
Hannah challenged the very format of comedy in this show by asking if to laugh at something is to dismiss it unchallenged. She risked alienating her profession, and audiences expecting a laugh every 15 seconds, by delivering a show with a serious message that questioned audiences’ culpability for laughing at jokes and ignoring the grim reality behind them.

10. The 2012 Summer Olympic Opening Ceremony – Danny Boyle (2012)

This £27m extravaganza opened the London 2012 Olympic Games with a huge ever-changing set and thousands of volunteers. The ceremony covered huge swathes of British history, including the industrial revolution and the formation of the NHS. The show began with the Queen apparently parachuting into the stadium and reached an estimated global audience of 900 million.

What the judges thought:
This was a show on a huge scale that everyone thought would fail. Boyle walked the hugely political tightrope of representing national identity in a cultural moment on a truly global stage. The show is now seen to have brought the UK together, ahead of what would be troubling times to come for a nation divided.

Listen to Front Row's live special on the Risk List on BBC Sounds.

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