Petr Pavlensky—my favorite performance artist since he nailed his scrotum to the Red Square to protest Russia’s police state and “the apathy, political indifference, and fatalism of Russian society”—has been in jail since November, after he set fire to Moscow’s Federal Security Service (FSB) headquarters’ non-functional, symbolic wooden door. The FSB—formerly, the KGB—apparently has a state art prize. This year, Pavlensky was nominated and, for some reason, the FSB has accepted this nomination. It is unclear who is trolling who, but even if he wins (ha!), this artist is going to be in jail for awhile.
Pavlensky has been charged with “vandalism motivated by ideological hatred.” The ideological hatred, which he expressed in his artistic statements, is for the FSB, their renewed Soviet-style oppression and surveillance, and their slightly singed offices—the same offices once used by the KGB and the Soviet Union’s first secret police, Cheka. There’s a deadly, disgusting history here.
The Russian Security Services (FSB) Prize for Literature and the Arts awards work on the subject of the FSB, so the piece certainly qualifies. It’s a “fuck you,” but it qualifies. The Moscow Times reports that the pyro-political performance was nominated by Maria Baronova, a coordinator of the “Open Russia” human rights project with political ambitions. She’s said the nomination has been accepted and “is worthy of the highest consideration of FSB award organizing committee... I ask them to appreciate Pavlensky’s art.”
The last time Pavlensky was nominated for a state prize (“Innovation”), he was disqualified for “obvious violation of the law” and “material damage,” which caused angry mass walkouts from the selection committee and the cancellation of the prize’s visual art category.
Pavlensky is still awaiting trial but has meanwhile managed to get his “vandalism” charge upgraded to “damaging a cultural heritage site” (that deadly, disgusting one), earn an additional “vandalism” charge for an old pro-Ukraine protest, and be the subject of brutal beat down by police in transit to court. Prolific!