Russian Artist Piotr Pavlenski Sentenced To Prison Over Broadcasting Sexual Videos of Politician

Russian artist Piotr Pavlenski, 39, was sentenced Wednesday in Paris to six months in prison after being charged in connection with allegations that he broadcast sexual videos of Benjamin Griveaux, a former mayoral candidate for Paris, in 2020, Le Monde and Agence France-Presse reported.

Pavlenski and his partner Alexandra de Taddeo were both found guilty of a “violation of privacy” and ordered to pay €15,000 in damages and €5,000 in legal fees. De Taddeo was given a six-month suspended sentence. Pavlenski said Wednesday that he would not appeal the decision.

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In 2018, de Taddeo, 32, was in a relationship with Griveaux. In 2020, when Griveaux ran for mayor of Paris for  La République En Marche! (LREM) party, Pavlenski posted intimate messages between Griveaux and de Taddeo, as well as a video Griveaux sent of a man masturbating, on a site called Pornopolitique. Griveaux ended his campaign shortly after citing “despicable attacks calling into question [his] private life.”

Pavlenski is a performance artist known for controversial performances and artworks that, according to a New York Times profile in 2019, blur the line between “art, protest, and crime.” Pavlenski first gained notice in 2012 when he sewed his mouth shut for the work Seam, staged in protest of the incarceration of Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot. Since then, in Russia, he has wrapped himself in barbed wire, hammered a nail through his scrotum, and cut off his earlobe in protest of legal repression, political apathy, and the political abuse of psychiatric care.

In 2020, Pavlenski initiated the project Pornopolitics, which was accompanied by a website that, he said, was meant to expose politicians who “impose puritanism on society while despising it.” 

“It is a matter of principle. It is as if someone who campaigns against violence against women beats up his wife every night,” he said, according to a report by RFI at the time. “Benjamin Griveaux started his campaign with a monstruous lie, a disgusting hypocrisy, he used his family, his wife, his children to create a political image and present himself as an icon for all the fathers and husbands of Paris.”

While de Taddeo denied in court having given Pavlenski permission to post the video and images, she said that she supported the artist. After the decision, de Taddeo said that she “expected France to be a little more grateful to Piotr and his artistic approach.”

During the trial in late June, the prosecution said that Pavlenski’s actions could not be “committed in the name of freedom of expression.”

Richard Malka, Griveaux’s lawyer, said that “justice was done today.”

“The artistic rantings of one and the denials of the other were rejected by the court and what this decision says is that the violation of our private lives is a serious offense committed by delinquents,” he added.

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