Petr Pavlensky in front of a Banque de France building in the Place de la Bastille in Paris. Photo in The New York Times, Oct. 19, 2017

We live in violent times.  Petr  Pavlensky quotes Vladimir Lenin on the State as a ‘special apparatus for the systematic application of violence  and the submission of people to violence’. While he looks back to Nijinsky, Mayakovsky,  Van Gogh and twentieth-century actions his celebrated protest pieces,  Suture, Carcass, Fixation, Freedom, Segregation, Threat are  encoded in the globally accessible eternal present of  Youtube. Achieving political asylum in France with his family, Pavlensky has now spent months in a French prison in solitary confinement and on hunger strike. His sentence has been renewed for another  four months, after his last action, Éclairage – Illumination. Mirroring Threat, it symbolically set fire to the threshold not to the FSB headquarters, but the Banque de France  in the Bastille, birthplace of the French Revolution: a protest against capitalism. What is the meaning of this mirroring in the present political climate? Does he deserve his punishment and what he sees as the mirroring of the penal systems?

On international labour day we must think about Egalité, Fraternité  — and Liberté.

Sarah Wilson

Professor Sarah Wilson is an art historian, curator and writer. Her global art interests are informed by specialism in postwar and Cold War Europe and the USSR. In 2015, she was co-curator and curator for the academic forum of the 1st Asian Biennale / 5th Guangzhou Triennale, Guanzhou, China. She was educated at the University of Oxford (English Literature) and at the Courtauld where she took her MA and Ph.D degrees. In 1997 she was awarded the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres for services to French art and culture. In 2015 she was the recipient of International Association of Art Critics’ Award for Distinguished Contribution to Art Criticism. She is a Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Sarah’s  major publications include : Paris, Capital of the Arts,1900-1968 (Royal Academy, 2002), a substantial livre–catalogue and the standard publication on the subject, and The Visual World of French Theory: Figurations. A second volume: The Visual World of French Theory II: interventions (in preparation) will challenge the ‘Figurations‘ volume, with an emphasis on conceptual art, performance and film.