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“Society has plunged into silence,” says Russian art activist Pyotr Pavlensky

“Society has plunged into silence,” says Russian art activist Pyotr Pavlensky

4 July 2016

Pyotr Pavlensky speaks with Radio Free Liberty

“Society has plunged into silence — silence insofar as action is concerned. [...] I think we need to respond to this somehow and counteract it,” Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky stated in a recent interview with Radio Liberty.

In his conversation with the news broadcasting organisation, Pavlensky spoke about the origins of his antiestablishment art, citing his time at St Petersburg’s Art and Industry Academy as a pivotal time in the development of his work. The artist stated that he was inspired by the realisation during this time that “art is used as an instrument for ideology and propaganda — as a political instrument.” In particular, Pavlensky made reference to the “clerical ideology” prevalent at art school, noting that “by the fourth year, students would cross themselves and bow because of the ideology imposed on them”.

“I realised that I didn’t want to allow the instrumentalisation of art and to allow myself to be used to execute someone else’s ideological goals,” he told Radio Liberty‘s Russian Service while on a visit to Prague.

The catalyst, however, for his violent public performances was the trial of female punk protest collective Pussy Riot in 2012, after their Punk Prayer performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Since then, his stunts have included Seam, in which Pavlensky sewed his mouth in protest against the detention of Pussy Riot, and setting fire to the entrance of the FSB building in November 2015 in an artistic action entitled Threat. Surprisingly, a Moscow court found the artist guilty of damaging an object of cultural heritage yet spared him time in prison, fining him 500,000 rubles (US $7,775).

In response to those who condemn the brutality of his actions, Pavlensky says that the shocking nature of his acts is crucial within a public discourse inundated with words but ultimately lacking in meaning or significance.

“There are now so many words and there is so much communication that in actual fact a large quantity of people have plunged into a hubbub. It has just become noise,” he stated.

Source: Radio Liberty