In that game, Western journalists and Russian liberals gladly agreed, Pavlensky "always came out the winner," making the state look stupid. "By being tough on Pavlensky, the state was acting in the framework of his artistic scenario, because this seemingly vulnerable man is ready to suffer. In fact, he wants to suffer if his suffering exposes the state," explained Marat Guelman, a gallerist of controversial modern art and a curator of several anti-religious exhibitions in Russian cities.
In the context of Guelman's previous statements about Pavlensky, one can understand his confusion. For years, Guelman has been praising both Mr. Pavlensky and his Western supporters. So, when Pavlensky attacked a Western institution (Pavlensky said his aim was "to unleash a new great French revolution" against bankers), it obviously did not fit Guelman's (and the West's) "artistic scenario." For a time being, Guelman could feel himself in the situation of the Russian state — again dumbfounded by Pavlensky's sudden chess move.
One can see the contradiction here. In Russia, any moves to punish Pavlensky for hooliganism or vandalism were denounced by Guelman and the Western press as attacks against freedom of expression. But the French court's decision to place Pavlensky in a psychiatric hospital under police supervision did not provoke any protests from anyone, including Pavlensky's usual supporters.
Thank God, the bank did not burn down, but the damage inflicted by Pavlensky was serious enough for the Banque de France's office to stop operations for several days.
At the time in 2013, the French interior minister Manuel Valls denounced Femen's action as a "useless provocation." And the mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, an avid supporter of Pussy Riot, showed little appetite for this Pussy Riot-style action in his own city, dismissing it as "a parody of the brave fight for gender equality."
So, in the magic box of the Western mainstream press, the same action that is seen as "anti-Putin political expression of artistic freedom" in Russia becomes a "useless provocation" and a crime in France.
In 2015, when Pavlensky set the FSB on fire, the mainstream media's reaction was much more interested, analytical, full of desire to understand even the subtlest movements of the artist's soul.
In that sense, the 2015 article in The New Yorker magazine, headlined "The Protest Artist Who Stumps Putin" and written by the former head of Radio Free Europe's Moscow office, Masha Gessen, was the most illustrative example of such sympathetic artistic analysis. The New Yorker's Masha Gessen called the repair works in FSB after Pavlensky's arson "state-provided perfect coda for a piece of protest art."
Summarizing Pavlensky's achievements, Masha Gessen in her 2015 article admired Pavlensky for "outsmarting the authorities by making their reaction part of his performance." Well, by his arson in Paris, Pavlensky outsmarted Ms. Gessen, making Masha's reaction (or absence of it) an even greater part of his new performance. The Western media's double standards got a perfect illustration. By becoming a common hooligan in France, Pavlensky managed to dumbfound the dumbfounders, and that is an achievement much greater (or at least funnier) than the old Chinese tactic of "observing the observer." This time, the observer turned out to be a liar with double standards.
The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.