Russian Performance Artist Cuts Off Earlobe in Political Protest
Pavlensky also sewed his lips together to protest the prosecution of Pussy Riot.
The (extreme) performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky has struck again. After making waves last November by nailing his scrotum to the cobblestones of Moscow’s Red Square to denounce the political indifference of modern Russian society, the artist has now cut off his earlobe to protest about the forced psychiatric treatment imposed on Russian political dissidents, the Guardian reports.
The events took place last Sunday, when a naked Pavlensky climbed onto the roof of Moscow’s Serbsky psychiatric center, sat on the ledge, and proceeded to sever his earlobe with a large kitchen knife.
After the gory act of self-mutilation, a bloodied Pavlensky was removed from the roof by police and taken to a hospital. His wound was examined by doctors who also tested him for signs of pneumonia due to the below-freezing temperatures at the time of the performance. Last night, Pavlensky’s lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, told the Guardian that the artist had been cleared of any disease or complications from the self-inflicted wound. He is expected to be discharged from the hospital shortly.
In a statement published on the Facebook page of his wife, Oksana Shalygina, on the day of the event, Pavlensky compared the separation of the earlobe from his body to the “concrete wall” that separates the sane from the insane in Russian society. “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.
The Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry has earned the reputation of being a state instrument of oppression, giving questionable diagnoses to Russian dissidents. According to the Guardian, Mikhail Kosenko, a protester in the 2012 demonstration in Bolotnaya Square, was sentenced to indefinite psychiatric treatment last year, after the Serbsky centre declared him insane. Nadiya Savchenko—a Ukrainian pilot captured by pro-Russia separatists and currently being tried for complicity in the deaths of two Russian war correspondents—has been undergoing a psychiatric evaluation at the Serbsky centre since last week. Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, consider the charges against Savchenko “politically motivated.”
Officials have sought to have Pavlensky committed to a mental institution several times due to his confrontational political protests using self-mutilation. Just last week, a St. Petersburg district court turned down a second request to have Pavlensky examined. That was brought on by a performance this past February in which Pavlensky and others burned a number of tires on a St. Petersburg bridge in support of the Euromaidan protests in Kiev, which led to the resignation of then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. Pavlensky was charged with vandalism at the time.
In the summer of 2012, when Pavlensky sewed his lips shut to protest at the prosecution of the punk-rock activists Pussy Riot. He was taken away in an ambulance at the time and underwent a psychiatric evaluation, which he passed.
On Monday, while recovering at the hospital, the artist was psychiatrically assessed and was again declared sane, his lawyer told the Guardian.
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