The writing on the wall

Russian artist Petr Pavlensky staged a Van Gogh – esque act of self – mutilation last week, cutting off his earlobe with a butcher’s knife while sitting on the walls of the Serbsky psychiatric centre in Moscow. The artist’s action, called “Otdelenie” (a word that means both “separation” or “ward” in Russian), is targeted against the practice of ‘punitive psychiatry’ – psychiatric treatment as a form of persecution in politically motivated cases.

Petr Pavlensky’s “Otdelenie”

The Serbsky psychiatric center is notorious for its history of ‘treating’ dissidents and political prisoners throughout the Soviet era. Lately, the Center has been re-establishing its chilling reputation: earlier this year, doctors from the Serbsky institute proclaimed Mikhail Kosenko, one of the anti – Putin protesters arrested at a political rally in May, 2012, insane, leading to a sentence of indefinite psychiatric treatment for the 38-year old.

Pavlensky himself had to undergo numerous psychiatric evaluations this year after a series of performances that included nailing his scrotum to the Red Square pavement and rolling around naked in barbed wire. Nadya Tolokno of Pussy Riot, a big supporter of Pavlensky’s work, later wrote that the artist’s strategies and somber aesthetics are more in line with the current political situation in Russia than the outdated multi-colored optimism of Pussy Riot.

Pavlensky, who performed “Otdelenie” naked on what was an unusually cold October day, was removed from the facade of the building two hours into the performance by armed policemen and taken to a hospital (not the Serbsky center). Neither the knife nor the earlobe were returned.

In other news –The Breus Foundation has officially announced the names of this year’s nominees for the Kandinsky Prize, which provides the winning artist with a very substantial award of 40,000 Euro for “Project of the year”. This year, Baibakov Art Projects alumna Irina Korina’s Refrain, Pavel Pepperstein’s Holy Politics and Lilia Li-Mi-Yan’s Masters/Servants are competing in that category. Another Baibakov Art Projects favorite, Timofey Radya, is among the nominees for the Young Artist Prize with “All I Know About Street Art”, an artistic manifesto written on the wall of a St. Petersburg factory in 2013.

Timofey Radya’s “All I Know About Street Art” (2013).

This month Radya, along with the talented Nikolai Alekseev, Alexandra Sukhareva, Aslan Gaisumov, Anastasia Kuzmina, Ivan Gorshkov and Evgeny Granilshchikov has also been chosen as the awardee of Garage’s support program for young Russian artists. All awardees will receive a monthly grant of 20,000 rubles throughout the year. With the ruble recently hitting historic lows, that amounts to about $470 per month.

Meanwhile, in Kiev, 23-year old Aslan Gaisumov has his eyes on a bigger award: he is the sole Russian nominee for PinchukArtCenter’s Future Generation Art Prize. The names of nominees were announced several days before Ukraine held a historic parliamentary election that resulted in a triumph of pro-Western parties, securing a European turn in the countries future. Politics are hard to avoid in Kiev these days, but for the Pinchuk prize, with its very international jury panel and selection committee, art is the first priority.  21 artists from all over the world, including Jon Rofman (Canada), Carlos Motta (Colombia), Zhanna Kadyrova (Ukraine), GCC (Arabian Gulf Region), He Xiangyu (China) are competing for the $100,000 prize, which will be awarded for the third time in early December of this year.

Posted by: Polina Dubik 

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