If you thought last night’s Miss Universe pageant in Moscow was a disturbing display of grotesquery and self-defilement, it pales in comparison to a guerrilla art stunt that took place nearby less than 24 hours later. In Red Square, performance artist Petr Pavlensky stripped and nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones outside Lenin’s Mausoleum, near the Kremlin.
Pavlensky said the act, held on Russia’s Police Day, was a protest against the country’s increasingly dangerous police state. In a statement posted prior to the demonstration, Pavlensky wrote: “A naked artist looking at his balls nailed to the Kremlin pavement is a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference, and fatalism of contemporary Russian society.” Police were quick to cover Pavlensky with a blanket and take him to a clinic and a police station.
Pavlensky has altered his body before in the name of art. He sewed his lips together after members of Pussy Riot were jailed for their guerrilla performance inside a Moscow church and he wrapped his naked body in barbed wire outside a government building in St Petersburg, in a reaction to the government’s suppression of civil liberties. Last year he co-founded Political Propaganda, an online magazine covering modern art in a political context, particular as it relates to gender and gay issues.