Russia: Political performance artist arrested

1 December 2015

Pyotr Pavlensky, a 32-year-old performance artist from Saint Petersburg, was arrested in Moscow on 9 November 2015 after dousing the doors of the FSB, the Russian security agency, with gasoline and setting it ablaze as part of a political art performance he titled ‘Menace’.

Later the same day, a Moscow court sentenced Pyotr Pavlensky to a 30-day pre-trial detention. He is charged with vandalism and faces up to three years in prison.

** Update as of 30 March 2016 **
Charges against Pavlensky have changed to “damaging a cultural heritage site”, though the maximum potential sentence of three years will not change

Pavelensky described his performance as “a glove thrown by society in the face of terrorist threat” by the Russian Security Agency, an organisation he said “operates through continuous terror and holds power over 146 million people.”

In a press release, Pavlensky spoke out against “terrorism” by the FSB and said that “the threat of inevitable reprisals hangs over everyone within the range of security cameras, phone-tapping and passport control borders.”

It isn’t the first time Pavlensky has performed onetime political street acts of art tailored to the themes of police state and oppression in contemporary Russia. A couple of years ago, during the Pussy Riot trial, Pavlensky literally sewed his mouth shut to protest the trial that was going on in Moscow.

Another time he nailed his scrotum to Red Square. “So he’s kind of a master of these onetime political street acts of art and certainly most of his work is tailored to the themes of police state and oppression in contemporary Russia.

Photo above: Pyotr Pavlensky being arrested after setting fire to the wooden doors of the FSB security service building in Lubyanov Square, Moscow around 1:00am Monday, November 9, 2015. Courtesy of

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russia-interpol» | INSIGHT article – 31 October 2014:
Russia: The street artists that drive authorities mad
“Russian street artists are twisting and testing the lines between art, activism and hooliganism. While most artists would define their various protest actions and expressions as art, or street art, the Russian authorities only see illegal hooliganism.”

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