There’s protesting government corruption, and then there’s this. During one of the more cringe-worthy political stunts ever to take place, Russian performance artist Pyotr Pavlensky nailed his scrotum to the cobblestone pavement in Moscow’s Red Square on Sunday. The ballsy stunt was reportedly a demonstration against Russia’s annual Police Day.
"We are on the threshold of becoming a police state,” the artist told Dozhd television, according to CBC News.
Horrified visitors to the square gawked at a naked Pavlensky, who sat in front of Lenin’s Mausoleum with his legs and arms outspread and a large metal nail through his scrotum. His gaze was drawn downwards toward his crucified package.
According to Gawker, the artist was arrested shortly afterward, and an emergency crew used a claw hammer to remove the nail from the pavement. Pavlensky was taken to a hospital but reportedly refused to be admitted.
"The performance can be seen as a metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of contemporary Russian society," Pavlensky said in a statement, according to The Guardian. "As the government turns the country into one big prison, stealing from the people and using the money to grow and enrich the police apparatus and other repressive structures, society is allowing this, and forgetting its numerical advantage, and bringing the triumph of the police state closer by its inaction."
The Guardian reported that the political stunt, called “Nail,” is not the artist’s first public self-mutilation. In July 2012, Pavlensky sewed his lips shut to protest the jail sentences given to members of Pussy Riot. He also once wrapped himself in barbed wire in front of the main Russian government building to signify a person “inside a repressive legal system.”