Russian artist self-mutilates for justice

Manitou Messenger - Tue, 11/11/2014 - 10:00am

Pyotr Pavlensky, a performance-based Russian artist, sat naked on the roof of the Serbsky Psychiatric Centre on Sunday, Oct. 19. He climbed up in protest of the forced psychiatric treatment of political dissidents. But instead of merely occupying the roof to make a statement, Pavlensky took it one step further. He cut off his right earlobe.

This type of physical mutilation is not a first for Pavlensky. He’s performed a few controversial stunts, including sewing his mouth shut after the prosecution of the punk-rock band Pussy Riot and nailing his scrotum to Moscow’s Red Square, which he called at the time a “metaphor for the apathy, political indifference and fatalism of modern Russian society.” Self-mutilation is an extreme form of protest, but it does guarantee one thing: attention.

Pavlensky’s performance art has made the news worldwide, drawing notice to whatever issues are at its  origin. He is very good at what he does, assuming that someone who protests through self-mutilation can be good at what he does. During his demonstrations he is very vacant, often expressionless, which makes the entire spectacle more shocking. By being so silent during what we would imagine to be awful physical pain, the performance is not personal, but rather focused entirely on the act and what it stands for. Between the pain and the calm, the protest is a contradiction of itself and ultimately demands our attention.

So what exactly is Pavlensky achieving by cutting of part of his ear? He’s trying to draw attention to the controversial, Soviet-era methods that the Serbsky Centre is using to lock up political dissidents. In April, Mikhail Kosenko, a demonstrator in Bolotnaya square, was sentenced to indefinite psychiatric treatment. Amnesty International has called the sentence very similar to Soviet-era practices of immorally stifling political opposition. Along with Konsenko, Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko is being tried for complicity in the deaths of two Russian war correspondents, as well as undergoing a psychiatric exam. Both of these charges have been condemned as politically motivated.

Pavlensky has every reason to be protesting this kind of treatment from the Russian government. Besides the obvious abuse of power by officials who order this type of sentencing, there is severe malpractice in unjustly subjecting someone to psychiatric treatment. Pavlensky has been subject to psychiatric exams many times after his demonstrations, but each time he has been declared sane. The Russian government is notorious for magically ridding itself of political enemies, but as much as the government likes to deny it, opponents’ disappearances and mistreatment aren’t kept completely quiet. 

As far as Pavlensky’s demonstrations go, I respect him greatly for putting on such a dramatic demonstration to draw attention to a major issue. It’s unfortunate that he has to go to such lengths, but in a country like Russia, subtlety will get you nowhere when protesting the government. If anything, it’ll probably get you caught. A subtle performance will alert Russian officials that you need to be dealt with, but it won’t gain enough international attention to give you outside support.

Upon reading about Pavlensky, I immediately thought of the 2010 Arab Spring, when the Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire and sparked a movement across much of North Africa. Subtlety does not create movements in oppressive societies. Subtlety does not speak out in states without free speech. Subtlety does not encourage widespread change. Pavlensky’s demonstrations are sad, a little scary and definitely shocking. Despite all of this, in some cases, I think they are necessary.

Emma Whitford ’18 ( is from Middleton, Wis. She majors in political science.

Categories: Colleges

Music on Trial: Heartwork Yoga collaborates with The Chapel

Manitou Messenger - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 8:00pm

Portland-based band Musée Mécanique played at Heartwork Yoga on Thursday, Oct. 30 to a small but intimate audience. The concert combined the best of two worlds: Mike Morris, owner of The Chapel, booked the band and Heartwork Yoga Studio provided heating, low-light ambience, hot tea, blankets and an excuse not to wear shoes. The audience quietly shuffled into one of the yoga studios in socks and scarves on a chilly and blustery day to listen to the music.

The show started late after a modest gathering of about 15 people settled down on the floor with yoga blankets, pillows and complementary tea. Normally,  Musée Mécanique is made up of more than six members, but they were only traveling with three. While the room would not have suited the full band, it proved a great physical space for Musée Mécanique’s acoustic guitar, synth and glockenspiel lineup on Thursday night. The band played an hour of music, mostly from its recently released nautically-themed concept album “From Shores of Sleep.”

The band is currently touring with a smaller number of members to reimagine and rearrange its music for limited personnel. Heartwork Yoga Studio provided an atmosphere that matched these goals. The music itself was robustly arranged, with synth pads floating in and out of harmonica and banjo lines. It remained very centered around the singer-with-acoustic-guitar folk aesthetic. Many self-defined soft rock fans (there are so many in the Upper Midwest) would find their tastes perfectly at home with Musée Mécanique. There is an element of escapism in hearing any live music, but in some cases these circumstances overpower the performance.

Although the music was nuanced and well-performed, my friends and I found the cozy atmosphere a little too comfortable and struggled to remain awake between the quiet and calm music, hot tea and the warm yoga studio.

Usually Thursday night shows, after the stress and rigor of the week, are a personal favorite. But with this past week’s colder temperatures and crazy schedule, Musée Mécanique’s chilled-out singer-songwriter vibe couldn’t keep my energy up.

I look forward to hearing the band  again under different circumstances and grabbing its album when its Square-card reader works.

Categories: Colleges

Arb Notes - Carleton's Tiny Prairie

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:34pm

The Postage Stamp prairie may be a little bigger than its namesake, but not by much.

Categories: Colleges

East Side Versus West Side: A Campus Drama (not really)

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:31pm

Let’s be real. Goodhue is the straight hood as far as the Carleton College campus is concerned.

Categories: Colleges

Don’t Make it Weird: Advice for Screw Date

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:29pm

Today is the day.

Screw Date.

Categories: Colleges

Hitting A Wall: Does Music Divide?

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:25pm

The first time I picked up a copy of No Fidelity last year on a late Friday afternoon, I recall flipping through the pages, sitting alone and reading something I did not expect: a music scene I never ventured in before.

Categories: Colleges

Curiosity, Passion, and Persistence: Jay Johnson on Teaching Music

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:23pm

During the warmer months at Carleton, Carls often hear the sounds of drums echoing across campus.

Categories: Colleges

The Science Column - Are Six Senses Really Too Much To Ask For?

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:20pm

In honor of the Viewpoint theme this week, I would like to say that I did try very hard to think of something to write about music.

Categories: Colleges

Imagining A Perfect Playlist

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:19pm

I close my eyes and see a playlist. It holds about one hundred songs, though the number remains and will remain undetermined.

Categories: Colleges

Musical Misogyny

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:16pm

This may be old news, but I recently heard the song “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo for the first time. While I loved the beat, I couldn’t help but feel very conflicted.

Categories: Colleges

Slow Down and Listen to the Music

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:15pm

Work, meetings, studies, socials, meals, travel, hobbies- how can you possibly fit it all into a day? A week?

Categories: Colleges

Volleyball Players Recognized

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:13pm

ST PAUL, Minn-- A trio of Carleton College volleyball student-athletes received individual recognition from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC).

Categories: Colleges

Soccer Falls Short in Semis

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:10pm

Carleton’s men’s and women’s soccer teams both ended their seasons in hard-fought defeats on Wednesday in the MIAC semifinals.

Categories: Colleges

Women's Soccer

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:08pm

MOORHEAD, Minn. — The Knights (11- 4-4) have been in the MIAC Playoffs six times in the last nine seasons, and each trip to the conference tournament has seen Carleton play Concordia (13-3-3) at some point.

Categories: Colleges

“Dance is marginalized” - SAGE Winner Judith Howard Reflects on Her Carleton Experience

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 5:04pm

Teaching dance in an academic setting was never something that Judith Howard thought she would be doing in her early days of dancing, but it’s become a fulfilling aspect of her career.

Categories: Colleges

“Irena’s Vow” Lacks Wow

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 4:59pm

“Irena’s Vow,” directed by sophomores Shayna Gleason and Ingrid Hofeldt, premiers this weekend in the Little Nourse Theater.

Categories: Colleges

#Where Have the Cups Gone?

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 4:56pm

The dearth of reusable cups in the dining halls has led to widespread frustration--and the creation of a Twitter account: @Cupsandbananas, which offers updates and commentary on the number of cups and bananas present at various locations on campus.

Categories: Colleges

Student Sculptures Satisfy Visual Craving

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 4:52pm

As the term progresses, Carleton’s landscape is ever changing, and not just in a natural way; sculptures have come and gone around campus, bringing a human-made element to the change of seasons.

Categories: Colleges

Pressing or Paranoid?: Talking About Ebola

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 4:46pm

The spread of Ebola has been a topic of mounting concern in recent months.

Categories: Colleges

CSA Passes Drug Policy Resolution, Creates Task Force to Spark Discussion

Carletonian - Mon, 11/10/2014 - 4:41pm

Zosie Sandell’s ’17 suspension for drug possession earlier this term sparked a conversation about Carleton’s drug policies, which prompted the CSA Senate to pass a resolution that calls for revisions to Carleton’s alcohol and drug policy.

Categories: Colleges

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