Protesting Putin With Only Your Scrotum and a Nail

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 11 2013 2:32 PM

Russian Artist Nails Scrotum to Ground In "Police State" Protest

That's a headline I never imagined I'd ever write—which is kind of the point of the whole thing. It's a story that's nearly impossible to ignore, equal parts grotesque and powerful. Say what you want about Pyotr Pavlensky's decision to nail one of his private parts into Moscow's cold cobblestones, but clearly the Russian performance artist knows how to get people's attention.

Here's the Guardian with the details from Sunday's difficult-to-watch stunt, which Pavlensky described as "a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society" and said was staged to protest Russia's "police state":

Pavlensky walked on to Red Square on Sunday lunchtime, stripped off and nailed his scrotum to the cobblestones of Russia's most famous public space.
He was taken to hospital an hour later and given basic treatment for his injuries but declined to be admitted. He was later taken to a police station. Pavlensky is due to appear before a district court in Moscow on Monday over the stunt and could be jailed for up to 15 days.
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According to BBC News, Pavelensky remained nailed to the ground for about an hour and a half before police took him into custody. Below is the censored version of the stunt, complete with some blurry spots. Those who want it, though, can find a non-blurred version here. In Russia, meanwhile, Pavlensky's allies are hailing the protest as a "powerful" display of Russian "powerlessness" under Putin, an interpretation only made stronger by the fact that the video is currently being blocked on a number of Russian social media sites.

Pavelnsky is no stranger to sacrificing his body for his art and his advocacy. Before Sunday's scrotum stunt, he was probably best known for sewing his lips together to protest the jail sentences handed out to members of the punk band Pussy Riot.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.