Artist nails testicles to ground in Red Square

Performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky stages protest at ‘apathy, political indifference and fatalism of Russian society’

Red Square has seen a lot over the centuries, from public executions to giant military parades, but a performance artist broke new ground on Sunday when he nailed his scrotum to cobblestones in a painful act of protest.

Pyotr Pavlensky said the protest was his response to Russia’s descent into a “police state” and was timed to coincide with Police Day, which Russia’s law enforcement officials celebrated on Sunday.

“The performance can be seen as a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society,” wrote Pavlensky in a statement. “As the government turns the country into one big prison, stealing from the people and using the money to grow and enrich the police apparatus and other repressive structures, society is allowing this, and forgetting its numerical advantage, is bringing the triumph of the police state closer by its inaction.”

Pavlensky has a history of self-harming art, including sewing his lips together to protest against the jail sentences given to the members of the Pussy Riot punk group and wrapping himself in barbed wire outside a Russian government building, which he said symbolised “the existence of a person inside a repressive legal system”.

Leading Russian theatre director Kirill Serebrennikov wrote on his Facebook page that the performance was a “powerful gesture of absolute despair”.

Pavlensky walked on to Red Square on Sunday lunchtime, stripped off and nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones of Russia’s most famous public space. He was taken to hospital an hour later and given basic treatment for his injuries but declined to be hospitalised. He was later taken to a police station.

Pavlensky is due to appear before a district court in Moscow on Monday over the stunt and could be jailed for up to 15 days.

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