Controversial Russian artist and political activist Pyotr Pavlensky made quite a stir on Sunday when he cut off his earlobe in public with a kitchen knife.
He was sitting naked atop the roof of Moscow’s Serbsky psychiatric center at the time.
In a statement posted on his wife’s Facebook page, Pavlensky said that the act of mutilation had been done to protest the use of psychiatric treatment on political dissidents. The slicing off of his earlobe, he said, was meant to symbolize the destruction that’s caused by police “returning to the use of psychiatry for political goals.”
According to RT.com, Pavlensky carried out his protest in below-freezing temperatures. He was reportedly removed from the roof by police officers, who took him to a hospital for treatment.
As the Guardian notes, the Serbsky center, where Pavlensky’s protest took place, was infamous during the days of the USSR for “giving questionable diagnoses” to political dissidents who were confined there.
In recent months, human rights groups have criticized the Russian government for again using psychiatric treatment to silence dissidents. In July, for instance, Amnesty International condemned Russian authorities for returning to “Soviet-era tactics” following the sentencing of activist Mikhail Kosenko to indefinite compulsory psychiatric treatment.
This isn't the first time that Pavlensky has mutilated his body as an act of protest.
Last November, the artist stripped naked at the Red Square before nailing his scrotum to the cobblestones. Pavlensky explained at the time that he was protesting what he called Russian society’s political indifference in the face of a strengthening “police state.”