[CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT ★★★]
RUSSIAN PERFORMANCE ARTIST DETAINED FOR SETTING GOVERNMENT DOORS ON FIRE
(P1) Russia on Monday DETAINED a political PERFORMANCE ARTIST after he TORCHED the doors to the HEADQUARTERS of the FSB security service, the successor to the KGB.
(P2) Pyotr Pavlensky set fire to the wooden doors of the FSB building in downtown Moscow around 1:00am (Sunday 2200 GMT), his lawyer Olga Chavdar said.
(P3) Police later opened a criminal investigation into VANDALISM over the incident.
(P4) If charged and found guilty of vandalism, Pavlensky could face up to three years in prison.
(P5) A video posted online on Pavlensky’s social media account shows flames leaping to the top of the doorway as the artist stands in front of it holding a gas CANISTER, before a policeman comes running up.
(P6) In a message released with the video, Pavlensky said: “The FSB acts using methods of terror and holds power over 146 million people.”
(P7) The FSB headquarters, which take up an entire block, were used by Soviet-era SECRET POLICE for INTERROGATIONS, jailing opponents, and EXTRA-JUDICIAL killings.
(P8) President Vladimir Putin briefly headed the FSB and was a KGB agent during the Soviet era.
(P9) Pavlensky’s lawyer said the FSB questioned the ACTIVIST and asked him whether he had intended to kill anyone.
(P10) “He was detained at 1:00am after which he was in the FSB headquarters, where they INSISTENTLY asked him whose death he wanted,” she said.
(P11) “He told them ‘What are you saying? I don’t want anyone’s death’,” she said, adding that no one was on the street at the time except Pavlensky and two journalists.
(P12) “We intend to use the right not to give TESTIMONY,” she said after the vandalism investigation was announced.
(P13) Russian artists who CARRY OUT political STUNTS usually serve up to 15 days in police cells for PETTY HOOLIGANISM, but can face much higher SENTENCES.
(P14) Two members of the group Pussy Riot in 2012 were sentenced to two years for hooliganism after their performance in a church protesting against close ties between the Russian Orthodox Church and Putin.
(P15) Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova praised Pavlensky in a tweet on Monday as “the brains and the CONSCIENCE of our era.”
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- Performance artists and CONCEPTUAL ARTISTS make art out of ideas. What ideas were behind Pyotr Pavlensky’s setting these doors on fire?
- Performance and conceptual artists put energy into the DOCUMENTATION of their work. How did Pavlensky document this piece?
- Artists in certain countries such as Russia often PUT THEIR WORK FORWARD as a form of POLITICAL PROTEST. What is the relationship between art and politics?
- Do you think that Pavlensky will serve time in prison for this act, or not? Does the international attention he is getting help him or hurt him?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Performance artist
- Secret police
- Carry out
- Conceptual artist
- Put forward
- Political protest