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From anti-Putin dissident to sex videos filter in Paris


"The artist must choke on all power," defends in an interview Piotr Pavlenski, the Russian agitator who has shaken French politics

Piotr Pavlenski looks and speaks like a character from a Russian novel of the nineteenth century, one of those hallucinated nihilists who wanted to charge against everything and everyone, an artist or a provocateur, an activist or an agent - voluntary or involuntary - of whom He knows what strange forces, a visionary or a criminal, a prophet or a demon, a possessed.

"Always, in my artistic career, I have been convicted of criminal, crazy or, now, FSB agent [Russian intelligence services, heirs of the KGB]," Pavlenski said yesterday in an interview with EL PAÍS and other media in Paris. “It looks a lot like when Adolf Hitler talked about degenerate art. He said: 'The artist I do not like is a degenerate artist: crazy, or criminal, or enemy,' he added, in a French as precarious as clear has ideas.

Pavlenski, born 35 years ago in St. Petersburg (then Leningrad, in the Soviet Union still standing), is at the center of the political scandal of the year in France. A leak of private sexual videos has precipitated the fall of a municipal candidate in Paris and has opened the doors of French public life to practices so far not usual.

Griveaux and Macron on the Elysium, in 2017. On video, his resignation as a candidate for mayor of Paris. ETIENNE LAURENT AP | VIDEO: REUTERS

On February 14, Valentine's Day, Benjamin Griveaux, first-time collaborator of President Emmanuel Macron and candidate for his party to the mayor's office of the capital, announced that he was abandoning the campaign. The trigger was the publication on a website called Porno Politique of intimate images that Griveaux had sent two years before to a woman who was not his wife.


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The recipient was a 29-year-old student named Alexandra de Taddeo, now a Pavlenski couple. Both were arrested on February 15 for questioning and on 17 were charged for the dissemination of the recording. They were released, but with the prohibition of establishing contact with each other.

"It's an attack on love," says Pavlenski, who assumes all responsibility in the case and exonerates Taddeo. In May 2018, Taddeo began a brief relationship with Griveaux, when he was a spokesman for the Government of Macron, and stored the images.

Some time later, Taddeo became Pavlenski's partner, who admits: “I stole the material from his computer.” He says that she, although she collaborated in the preparation of Porno Politique, and although she knew that her boyfriend was preparing an impact action I didn't know what it was. ”He was surprised to see that the videos that Griveaux had jumped into the public arena.

"I was not happy," he acknowledges. "Politically support me," adds in the office of Juan Branco, the third character, with Pavlenski and Taddeo, in the triangle that has been leading the political, media and judicial world of Paris. Branco - author of a bestselling essay against Macron, out of Julian Assange and close to the yellow vests - advised Pavlenski legally before publishing the videos. During the conversation, Branco's cats doze or walk over the tables; Pavlenski responds without haste, unmistakable with his indelible sign: the mutilated ear.

Pavlenski tells in the book Le cas Pavlenski. La politique comme art ("The Pavlenski case. Politics as art", published in French in 2016 by the Louison publishing house) who grew up as the only child of a geologist father who died alcoholic, and a mother who worked as a youngster in a psychiatric hospital and lived obsessed with what they will say.

Controversial acts

At school, he drew his classmates starring in pornographic scenes, which made him see "the ability of art to expose human nature in an unexpected light."

He rose to fame with his actions, in which he put his body at stake: sewing his lips, wrapping himself naked in barbed wire, sticking his testicles in the Red Square in Moscow, burning the FSB door or cutting his earlobe right.

An accusation of rape led him and Oksana Chaliguina, his partner at the time and mother of his two daughters, to move to France in 2017. "In Russia they wanted to destroy me," he says. They obtained political asylum. For his first action in this country, the burning of the headquarters of the Bank of France in the Place de la Bastille, he spent 11 months in prison.

Pavlenski says to do political art. And he argues that the disclosure of Griveaux's private images is a mere element - like the knife with which his ear was mutilated - in a broader work with which he wants to put politics and pornography in relation. He argues that his goal, when exposing the macronist candidate, was to reveal the supposed contrast between family values ​​he exhibited in public and his private practices. "I respect private life when it is not contradictory to public life," he proclaims. Against those he implied a few days ago, he now leaves the air whether or not he has more videos: "I don't want to talk about my plans."

The satisfaction that his coup in France has aroused among some supporters of his former enemy, Russian President Vladimir Putin, does not bother him. "The artist must choke on all power," he replies. "I don't care what kind of power or government: the Russian who oppresses the Russian people, the French who oppresses the French, the United States who oppresses people there, or in Africa that oppresses the Africans."

Pavlenski has no intention of leaving France. "I am French now, Parisian," he says, although he has not asked for nationality. "I can participate in elections and in political life."

Pavlenski's ex-sympathizers question his latest action

"We have made a little mistake about him," says Russian-born historian Galia Ackerman, who in 2016 translated the book Le cas Pavlenski into French . The politics comme art . "In fact, he was not an opponent of Putin, but of the State in general," he adds. And he explains that, by rereading the publication, he realized that he had not changed so much: he already had this vision when many considered him a democratic dissident.

“The surprising thing is that in Russia he only exerted violence on himself: he practiced an art that consisted of staging in symbolic places and moments, and with self-mutilation exercises to, in fact, denounce the violence of Russian power. Now he totally changes his method, and it is hard for me to talk about artistic action: when he disseminates intimate videos, he exerts violence on another person, ”says Michel Eltchaninoff, prologuist at Le cas Pavlenski and editor-in-chief of Philosophie magazine. "It reminds me almost of the Kremlin speech that permanently denounces the hypocrisy of the West, this idea that the West is hypocritical because it invokes the right to impose its interests or because its politicians are not what they say," continues Eltchaninoff. “And, in addition, he uses the tactics of the kompromat [Russian method to obtain compromising information and blackmail], used for decades by the KGB and the FSB [the Soviet and Russian intelligence services]. It is strange to see a Russian opponent use this tactic with a political objective: to drop a candidate from the presidential party. ”

Since the United States presidential elections in 2016, France, like other Western countries, lives under the phantom of Russian interference. Last week, after the intimate images of Benjamin Griveaux, candidate for mayor of Paris from the party of President Emmanuel Macron, were released, theories about possible manipulation proliferated. The publication of a sex video reminds of the so-called kompromat that have served in Russia to trap political adversaries. At the Munich Security Conference, the day after Griveaux abandoned his campaign, Macron warned that Moscow "would continue trying to destabilize" Western democracies.

Source: elparis

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