He looked like a sticky pink manbaby but did he feel like one?
Text by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff, 7.05.2017
Somewhat resembling a sticky pink manbaby in a see-through womb, Russian performance artist Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich was arrested last week after attempting to crash the 2017 Met Gala in a fibreglass box.
Pavlov-Andreevich was delivered to the gala by handlers, with a representative on his Facebook saying that “(he wanted to) see how the institution reacts to the passive harmless box with an artist inside”. After he refused to comply with police requests to leave the premises he was taken to the police station and held for 22 hours on charges of public lewdness, obstructing governmental administration, criminal trespassing, and disorderly conduct.
We wanted to know the details behind Pavlov-Andreevich's behaviour and managed to catch him on WhatsApp.
S'up, where are you right now?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: New York. I'm catching a flight to London for the night and then on to Venice.
It's not the first time you've got naked inside a box – you've repeated it four other times for your Foundling series. Why?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: I wanted to do it in five cities I was deeply connected to. So Venice, Moscow, London, São Paulo, New York. And as for choosing which event to crash, I only come to institutions or museums that do not show or collect perfomance art and generally ignore it, so I come in a glass box hoping to be rejected – then I consider the episode successful. I also always choose an event when all the rich and famous are gathered together to celebrate something at a museum. (At the Met) fashion was using the museum context for their own commercial gain which I wanted to disrupt.
“I'm claustrophobic by nature so I was working with my fears” – Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich
How was going to the Met Gala in a glass box as an experience?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: All the previous episodes have been peaceful, this wasn't. I'm under under an open lawsuit case at the moment so I'm unable to speak about the Met really, as it might make the whole thing more complex. What I can say is that it was extremely quick. All within seconds.
How do you prepare for it?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: I just literally strip down naked and put myself into the box. My friends lock me in with 18 screws normally and then they just drop me as far inside the space as possible. There is no script.
You looked pretty vulnerable
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: I'm claustrophobic by nature so I was working with my fears. Since the very beginning I was super uncomfortable and very anxious inside the box.
How did it feel after the press picked up on it?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: The reactions that happened, 'Naked idiot crashes the Met Gala', it didn't matter. It's okay. It's a bit beautiful in a way.
What other sort of performance art do you do?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: I've just finished a series of seven-hour long performances, The Temporary Momnuments, where I suspend myself from different heights. The last one was 40 meters above Mac Museum in São Paolo where my solo show is currently on view. My vertigo is desperately strong so this was a much worse experience than the Met. I was literally shaking. I would repeat tortures, sufferings and punishments from the era of Brazillian slavery.
“People trust the physical condition more than any words or symbols you give them” – Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich
You made art based on the experiences of black slaves?
Do you think that's appropriate subject matter for you to tackle?
Brazil is extremely racist. People who visit have no idea. I'm an alien. I'm white, I'm blonde, whatever. I'm there to explain basic things to the people that are unheard of and I do it through putting myself in very difficult circumstances.
Why do you think you need to put yourself in such extreme conditions for your art?
Fyodor Pavlov-Andreevich: My art needs trust and understanding and people trust the physical condition more than any words or symbols you give them.