A woman looks at photo of Pyotr Pavlensky, who sewed his mouth to express his solidarity with women of Pussy Riot

A woman looks at photo of Pyotr Pavlensky, who sewed his mouth to express his solidarity with women of Pussy Riot band, a photographic documentation of event in public space - a part of 'Politics in Art' exhibition, in the Museum of Contemporary Art MOCAK, in Krakow. On Wednesday, September 07, 2022, in Krakow, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland.

(Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In Russia, Testicle Protest Takes on Oligarchy, State Repression

Pinning his scrotum to the ground in Red Square, a political artist makes global headlines

Russian performance artist and political activist Pyotr Pavlensky put his balls where his convictions are on Sunday when he literally nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones of Red Square in Moscow in order to call attention to the pervasive corruption of the nation's ruling oligarchs, a repressive "police state," and the apathy of his fellow citizens who refuse to challenge the status quo.

In a singular act of both self-brutalizition and political expression, Pavlensky stripped naked, sat down in the center of the busy square, and pinned himself to the ground with a six-inch nail.

"The performance can be seen as a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society," Pavlensky said in a prepared statement. "As the government turns the country into one big prison, stealing from the people and using the money to grow and enrich the police apparatus and other repressive structures, society is allowing this, and forgetting its numerical advantage, is bringing the triumph of the police state closer by its inaction."

Pavlensky remained seated motionless as Russian police first covered him with a jacket and then later removed him from the square.

As the Independent reports, figures from across the Russian arts world praised the performance, with one calling it "a manifesto of powerlessness".

Though most available footage of the act censored the details, the original video as well as Pavlensky's public statement were posted to the Russian website Grani.ru .

As the video notes, this is not the first time the provocative artist has used such methods to communicate his political message, but it is so far the most extreme. As the Guardian also reports:

Pavlensky has a history of self-harming art, including sewing his lips together to protest against the jail sentences given to members of Pussy Riot and wrapping himself in barbed wire outside a Russian government building, which he said symbolised "the existence of a person inside a repressive legal system".

The leading Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov wrote on his Facebook page that the performance was a "powerful gesture of absolute despair".


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