On November 10, 2013 on Red Square in Moscow Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the stone pavement. God only knows how he did it, that is if he really managed to drive а nail into the cobblestone. Unbeknownst are the ways of a true artist…
I’ve written about Mr. Pavensky’s this and other exploits in the field of actionism with plenty of pictures in my post Tastefully Nailed Testicles.
Since then, more actions followed, because true actionist must act and shock.
In February 2014, near the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Pavlensky, along with other actionists, “staged” the Ukrainian Maidan. The “artists” brought fifty or so tires, gasoline, metal sheets, sticks and two flags — black anarchist and yellow-blue Ukrainian. The tires were stacked into a barricade and then set on fire. The metal sheets, struck by sticks, created a characteristic Kiev street fighting rhythm. The ruckus continued even while the firefighters tried extinguish the fire.
Mr. Pavlensky was detained by police. No serious repercussions followed, however. The district court of Saint Petersburg dropped all charges against him soon thereafter apparently for lack of evidence.
On October 19, 2014, Pavlensky staged yet another artistic stint, sitting naked on the roof of the State Research Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow, large knife in hand. He tried and apparently succeeded to cut off his earlobe (or hacked a chunk of it) with a knife in protest against the use of psychiatry for political purposes.
“The knife separates the earlobe from the body… A concrete wall of Psychiatry separates the Society of Reasonable People from crazies. By using psychiatry for political purposes yet again, the police apparatus tries to regain the power of drawing the threshold between reason and madness. Armed with psychiatric diagnoses, the bureaucrat in a white coat carves out of society those pieces that prevent him from establishing a monolithic dictate, a one for all and compulsory for everybody,” Pavlensky said in a statement to the media.
Or something to this effect. He is a remarkably eloquent fellow. I translated his verbiage as close to the original as I knew how.
Mr. Pavlensky underwent psychiatric evaluation and, four days later, was once again found sane, thus not a subject to psychiatric intervention. It seems that these days Russian psychiatrists are terribly afraid of being accused of — yes, you guessed it — using psychiatry for political purposes. It’s much easier to declare citizen Pavlensky perfectly sane, rather than stand their ground and keep him from — if nothing else — harming himself, one anatomical part after another. Besides, the patient was doing it for the sake of sacred art.
Only a few days ago, aching for action actionist shocked and awed again. At 2 am, alone and fully dressed for a change, he splashed a canister of gasoline under a certain door on Lubyanka Square in Moscow and lit it with a lighter, setting it aflame. Mind you, it wasn’t just any door he choose at rendom, but the door of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) — the Russian CIA, that is.
The door burned much to the delight of numerous journalists, duly filming the door alight and the artist’s silhouette against the blazing fire. Because, you see, unless the “performance” is photographed, filmed and broadcast, the actionism is meaningless (aside for the damage to the artist and the property, if any.)
Of course, Pavlensky was detained by police, unless it was FSB. The question remains: Is Pavlensky going to be punished or get off scot-free this time around as well? Honestly, given Pavlensky’s prior brushes with the law and his luck in avoiding prosecution, I don’t know.
Now, lets imagine for a moment that some actionist would have attempted a protest action and approached the doors of CIA headquarters with the similar “artistic” intent. What do you think might have happened? Would the artistic expression of this sort have been duly appreciated by the CIA? FBI? Police?