Artist Petr Pavlensky speaks out about his scrotum-nailing performance

Petr Pavlensky during a performance where he nailed his scrotum to the ground. Via YouTube
Petr Pavlensky during a performance where he nailed his scrotum to the ground.
Via YouTube

The performance artist who was arrested after stripping naked and nailing his scrotum to the cobblestones of Red Square has been released.

Petr Pavlensky, 29, drove a nail through his genitals on Sunday while sitting on Russia’s most famous square before police took him to the hospital and then to custody. A court dismissed charges of “petty hooliganism” and released him Monday.

Metro spoke with Pavlensky to find out how he managed to perform his stunt.

Metro: How did you pull this stunt before they could stop you?

Pavlensky: I understood that there is surveillance everywhere. But I had an advantage because every other illegal protest on Red Square has people waving flags and is very visible. The police can react on such things.

What was the message behind your performance?

I heard that when conditions are bad in prison, convicts drive nail into their bodies. To this I added an act of humility before my country. What I mean is that people find what is excessive, on what nails them but they do nothing. It makes them feel helpless.

Did you speak with doctors about the possible consequences of such performance?

I didn’t notice any consequences to my health. You know, I didn’t try to nail my eye! When I was nailing my testicles I wasn’t scared at all, but when I was preparing [for the stunt], I was. All the fears and phobias doubled up.

How did you prepare?

I thought about my clothes. And I tried to undress quickly . I had to be sure that I could take off my clothes in 40 seconds. Otherwise, the stunt could fail.

Of course, it must have been hard to ready yourself and nail your scrotum…

Fear is a natural feeling, when you are thinking about it. The only thing that was really important for me was not to severe a vein – there would be a lot of blood then. I didn’t want to create a blood fountain. So, I had to try to hammer a nail and not to hit a blue line. But as for the pain, I was full of adrenalin so I felt none.

What happened after the arrest?

I was taken to the hospital, they removed the nail and bandaged my balls. Then I got a tetanus shot. One psychiatrist asked me a few questions. Then a policeman began to ask questions – “Who helped you?,” “How you did it and why?,” “If you get paid for it?” – then they took me to the court. Three hours later I was told that I was free to go. I did not understand what had happened, I was preparing for other things.

The police themselves decided to make their own performance. They tried to convince me that they had covered me with a blanket to make me feel warm. Such good guys…

What’s the most important influence of your performance?

Every time I do something I hope that people realize that each person can speak out and do something. When I do something, I overcome fears and phobias. I’m just saying that every person is capable of many things.

How has your family reacted?

Oksana Shalygina, who is working with me in the online project Political Propaganda, is always supportive. I’m against the institution of marriage, so, I can say she is my ally. We have two children – they, too, in some way, are “partners”.


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