Grace Wakeling ’21
Arguably the most extreme and aggressive activist artist is Pyotr Pavlensky. He is a Russian contemporary artist who often takes his performances a bit too far. In 2012 he famously attended a political protest where he sewed his mouth shut. Yes, he literally took a needle and thread to his face.
Then, approximately a year later, he wrapped himself in barbed wire while naked to lie outside of the Russian parliament building as a way of protesting repressive Russian laws.
Then, another year after that, he used a very large knife to publicly cut off his earlobe in order to protest forced psychiatry after he had undergone two psychiatric evaluations and somehow been declared sane both times.
In 2015, he then set fire to the headquarters of Russian Federal Security Service. He was arrested and was sentenced to three years in prison because of this, but he got out after 7 months in jail being released with a fine.
Later, he fled Russia and spent some time in France. But, when he was then accused of sexual assault he claimed he was politically motivated and he proceded to set fire to the Bank of France offices. He was arrested again and spent a year in jail.
And, most recently, in 2020, he leaked sexually explicit content of a political candidate causing the candidate to drop out of the running. He then shared his views on democracy and fairness, and he explained that his performative works of art are all a protest of injustice. Despite his extremist and largely insane behavior, his acts of protest stood for justice and truth. He truly stood out in the art world as he chose to display weakness rather than power which is unique to a protest, especially a political one.
Photo Credit: https://www.widewalls.ch/