"The Pavlensky case", the work written by the Russian activist, she translated it into French. Galia Ackerman, a former journalist and specialist in Russia, has been following the controversial artist very closely since her arrival in France in 2017.
For Le Parisien, she tells the life of "from squats to squats" of this "extreme" and "amoral" character. A personal and artistic journey that she understood very well… until the episode of “porn revenge”, which pushed Benjamin Griveaux to give up the race for mayor of Paris.
According to her, this 35-year-old artist was somehow manipulated. Interview.
You met Piotr Pavlenski in January 2017 in Paris. How did this first interview take place?
He had just landed in France because he was threatened with legal proceedings in Russia. I had already helped Russian dissidents, so I was asked to accompany him. Piotr was not threatened for political reasons, but for suspicions of violence and sexual abuse. Meanwhile, Russian justice has dropped the charges against him. Perhaps the Russian authorities were too happy to get rid of it. In any case, I do not exclude it.
What do you remember from his personality?
He is a lonely type, quite silent. He is extreme in everything he does, he decided he was going to do politics through art. People say he's just a pseudo-artist, but I don't agree. He is part of an extremely violent movement called political actionism. One of them, for example, tagged a Malevich painting, which cost several millions, with the dollar sign.
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VIDEO. Piotr Pavlenski: "I opened the site" which caused Benjamin Griveaux to withdraw
You get the impression that Piotr Pavlenski's way of life is to go beyond the law.
These people are completely unscrupulous. Pavlenski is an amoral person. He doesn't want to owe the state anything. He considers that one does not have to respect the laws. In Saint Petersburg as in Paris, he always assumed living on theft and petty theft. Before going to prison for the fire at a branch of the Banque de France, he lived from squat to squat with his wife and children.
With his wife Oksana, it was a kind of free union. But it was necessary to say everything (they are now separated, note) . Once, she betrayed this pact of honesty. To be forgiven, she cut a phalanx of her finger on her left hand (facts confirmed by the New York Times, Editor's note) . Likewise, he hides nothing from what he does to his children.
But how do you situate this act of "porn revenge" in his artistic project?
I do not understand it. What surprises me already is that Pavlenski always involved his body in his performances. He sewed his mouth, nailed the testicles, cut an earlobe ... Each time, he denounced the lack of freedom with his own body. Burning down a subsidiary of the Banque de France (in October 2017 in Paris, editor's note) , this still corresponded somewhat to this approach. He criticized capitalism. But there, what he did with Griveaux, it has nothing to do with political art. It's just from the level of the gutter (sic).
Some still see in his gesture an anti-system position ...
Yes, but Piotr is a deeply amoral person. A few weeks ago, I think he didn't know who Griveaux was. And he cannot defend the integrity of politicians because he does not recognize them in principle. Finally, given the idea he has of Parisians, I find it hard to get excited about this little municipal campaign.
To hear you, it was manipulated .
My intimate conviction is that he served as a useful idiot. Because there, he betrayed his own artistic mission in this case. I do not know how, but we must be interested in the role of his new partner, also in police custody. Maybe she too worked for someone? We don't know who is behind this whole story.
All of this reminds me of the old Soviet techniques. Young women and young men were used to trap policies and have compromising matters against them. Putin has used it several times against the opposition, most recently. For example, sex videos were broadcast concerning the opponent Boris Nemtsov.