The Body of a Political Masochist: Torture, Performance and Power in Elias Maglinis' The Interrogation


  • Tatjana Aleksic University of Michigan


Includes image: 'allegorical scene', 1955.


In November 2013 Russian conceptual artist Petr Pavlensky nailed his testicles to the icy cobbles of the Red Square in Moscow and sat there until the police and health services intervened. This protest/performance act rounded off a politically inspired “trilogy” that over two years involved various methods of body brutalization. The two performances preceding this one were a rather obvious act of Pavlensky’s sewing his lips shut, in protest at the incarceration of Pussy Riot members and the silencing of Russian dissidents, while the other one had him lying naked in a roll of barbed wire in front of the Legislative Assembly, in protest of Russian censorship, the notorious anti-gay legislation and a few other recent controversial laws. Resorting to such excruciating performances was part of his many attempts at drawing attention as much to the complacency with which contemporary Russians tolerate the corruption and bureaucratic impenetrability of Vladimir Putin’s rule, as Pavlensky’s own reaction as an artist to the commodification and mainstreaming of art in contemporary society.