Russian Authorities Release Radical Performance Artist Pyotr Pavlensky
He claims the incident has been a performance, from beginning to end.
Pyotr Pavlensky, the Russian performance artist who has continually foxed and defied the authorities, was released from prison on Wednesday, after a long-winded legal battle.
Greeted by cheers and a huge crowd of reporters, Pavlensky was released yesterday by a judge after being found guilty on vandalism charges and being sentenced to seven months—which he has already served—and fined 500,000 rubles ($7,800).
He was also ordered to pay 481,000 rubles to replace the door of the Moscow headquarters of the FSB security services, which he burnt as part of his performance Threat, which got him arrested in November 2015 and prosecuted.
Pavlensky attended the Moscow court caged and guarded by a dog, which reportedly growled and gnashed its teeth at him when he addressed the journalists in attendance.
“Thanks to all for the support, thanks to those who were not afraid,” he told the crowd ahead of his sentencing, according to AFP.
“It was in their interests to free me […] they wanted to show a hypocritical mask of humanity,” he said of his release. “I can’t pay the fine,” he added, stating that even if he could, he wouldn’t on principle.
The judge opted to fine Pavlensky much less than his prosecutors had requested (1.5 million rubles, or $23,420), yet his lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, says he may face open prison if the lesser although still substantial fine is not paid.
Pavlensky has been at odds with the Russian authorities since be began staging shocking public performances speaking out against what he sees as censorship and fear politics in the country.
Since the arrest of the punk group Pussy Riot, Pavlensky has sewn his lips shut, nailed his scrotum to the pavement of the Red Square, burned tyres in a pro-Ukrainian protests, cut of part of his ear, and wrapped himself in barbed wire.
Following his arrest in November last year, Pavlensky kept up his campaign against the authorities, and even refused lesser charges in sympathy with Ukrainians who have been given harsher sentences for similar crimes.
Although apparently victorious, Pavlensky has, in the last few months, been beaten by prison guards and placed in a mental health facility.
“They’re trying to label me: to say this is how a criminal, or a sick mind, views those in power,” Pavlensky told the BBC. “It’s a fight for a label: criminal or mad? But I am an artist. I am doing political art, nothing less, and nothing more.”
It seems that all the Russian authorities efforts to quell Pavlensky’s spirit seem to have had the opposite effect, as, according to the BBC, he is now saying the entire incident—from the moment he set the doors on fire to his release—has been one long political performance.
During his time in prison, Pavlensky has become increasingly famous, and last month he was awarded the 2016 Vaclav Havel International Prize for Creative Dissent for 2016 (past winners include Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot).
Pavelnsky donated the $42,000 prize, which was received by his girlfriend Oksana Shalygina in Oslo, to imprisoned group Primorye Guerrillas.
In a shocking move, the FSB also nominated him for their Prize for Literature and the Arts last week.
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