Petr Pavlensky: A Dissident Artist
"My actions should be minimal. Every movement by the authorities pulls them deeper and deeper in. They become involuntary participants in the production of my art” is a quote said by Petr Pavlensky from an article of the Calvert Journal. Petr Pavlensky is an artist from Russia. He uses his art to create a message about the current government, and just like the quote above says, the types of work he does is simple but holds a great impact. With every artwork he makes, his hope is to have the government to be involved. He has done a number of art that has gotten the attention of both the Russian government and the rest of the world. One of the first artworks to receive all of attention is his artwork called, Seam. In July of 2012, the following artwork happened after the incarceration of Pussy Riot members. What he did was sew his mouth shut and go the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg. He then held a sign up that said, “Action of Pussy Riot was a replica of the famous action of Jesus Christ (Matthew.21:12–13).” In response to his artwork, he was taken to psychiatric care to be evaluated but when deemed sane. He reflected on the artwork saying that artists in Russia are undermined and are not perceived as they should be. The following artwork to garner attention is Carcass which happened in 2013. This artwork included barbed wire to be wrapped around Pavlensky. As he stated in the Calvert Journal, once he accomplished the part of the work, such as being placed inside the barbed wire in front of the entrance to Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg, he was remained silence. This part of his quote plays a part, he believes that the more involvement the police has with his artwork, the more involvement the government has with his artwork. The artwork proved to be a comment on all the laws in Russia. With all the laws, there is a feeling of control, and Pavlensky said that with all these rules people are just carcasses wrapped in barb wire, essentially being restricted by the Government. In following months he also did another work called Fixation in which he nailed his scrotum to the Red Square in Moscow. The specific location was right in front of Lenin Mausoleum. His statement on the work was, “The action can be seen as a metaphor of apathy and political indifference and fatalism of modern Russian society.” With the current political situation in Russia, such as the persecution of even promoting homosexuality, censorship laws, and the suppression of activist, Pavlensky's goal becomes clearer. He calls attention to the Russian lifestyle, and criticizing the current government. He establishes the problems by doing controversial acts in public spaces. Though he does not speak to anyone during his performances, anyone who interacts with him is apart of the art he creates. That is why he makes known he wants the government to interact with him. He wants them to know that with all the attempts to hide the flaws of their country, he challenges them by establishing a truth about the political situation. He also says in the Calvert Journal that media tries to misrepresent various subjects, but something like his artworks is hard to misconstrue. Another artwork he did is called Segregation and consisted of cutting his own ear off. The motivations for this work was the political abuse of psychiatry in Russia. The context for this is the government would misdiagnosed certain groups or individuals for a political agenda. For example, derived from the “Psychiatry as a tool of coercion in post-Soviet countries” the group Pussy Riot was falsely diagnosed with “personality disorders” and were prompted to be isolated form society. Within this artwork, Pavlensky brings attention to one of the many things The Russian Government is attempting to hide. On to his most recent work which happened November 9th 2015, is Lubyanka's burning door.
Just like his other works, this one also involved public space. The Lubyanka is actually the headquarter for Russia's Security Service. During early mornings of November 9th, Pavlensky doused Lubyanka's door with gasoline and lit it on fire. However, he did not flee after lighting the fire, but rather stayed in place and pictures of his act was documented. He was quickly arrested and was later charged with vandalism. There has been polar opinion on the types of works Pavlensky does, and both sides do have their points. On one hand, his art challenges and shows to the world the problems of Russia. With art as powerful as his, more attention has been gained all over the world. Although, the type of work he does is obscene and dangerous. His first few works do no promote any threat to others, but to display himself naked in front of public may not be seen as necessary as the art entails. Following that, he did set a public building's door on fire, and though nothing serious came from the performance, there is always the potential. Regardless, of the feelings one has for this artist, he is a dissident artist who is fighting against a government that restricts the freedom of humanity.