Dissident Russian Performance Artist Sent to Psychiatric Hospital

It's a tactic often used to discredit critics of the government.

Russian authorities have reportedly placed Pyotr Pavlensky, the protest performance artist known for setting fire to Russia’s Federal Security Service and for nailing his scrotum to the ground in Red Square, in a psychiatric hospital. He had been in detention since the act of arson in November 2015, which he explained in a statement, saying, “The FSB acts using a method of uninterrupted terror and maintains power over 146 million people.”

The artist’s partner, Oksana Shalygina, told the Associated Press that the police transferred the artist from jail to a psychiatric hospital for an evaluation that could take as much as three weeks.

Pavlensky himself cut off an earlobe in 2014 in protest of the forced psychiatric treatment imposed on Russian political dissidents, which dates to the Soviet era. The artist braved sub-freezing temperatures to sit naked on the roof of Moscow’s Serbsky psychiatric center during the performance.

He compared the separation of the earlobe from his body to the “concrete wall” that separates the sane from the insane in Russian society in a statement published on Shalygina’s Facebook page. “Armed with psychiatric diagnoses, the bureaucrat in a white lab coat cuts off from society those pieces that prevent him from establishing a monolithic dictate of a single, mandatory norm for everyone,” Pavlensky wrote, according to the Guardian.

Pyotr Pavlensky cuts his earlobe off last Sunday,on the roof of Moscow’s Serbsky psychiatric centerPhoto via: Oksana Shalygina's Facebook

Pyotr Pavlensky cuts his earlobe off on the roof of Moscow’s Serbsky psychiatric center.
Photo: via Oksana Shalygina’s Facebook page.

The artist can be quite persuasive. Pavel Yasman, an investigator who interrogated him over the course of four months, quit his job at Russia’s Investigative Committee, according to the Moscow Times. “Pavlensky is a very strong person. I think it’s great to believe so fervently in what you are doing,” Yasman told the paper.

Pavlensky also protested the imprisonment of two members of Pussy Riot by sewing his lips shut in 2012.

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