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June trial date set for Russian artist who leaked sex video of President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘right-hand man’

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The Russian artist Pyotr Pavlensky is due to stand trial in France on 28 June over leaked sex videos that in early 2020 brought down the French politician Benjamin Griveaux, President Emmanuel Macron’s “right-hand man”, who had been due to run for Paris mayor.

Pavlensky previously said he released the video of Griveaux, a member of Macron’s La République en Marche party who was then standing for Paris mayor, to expose his “political hypocrisy”. Griveaux allegedly sent the video showing a man’s genitals to a woman who is not his wife.

The exchange inspired Pavlensky to create his “political porn” website focusing on the behaviour of people in power—a work of art the artist says is “entirely based on playing with aesthetic categories”. The work incorporates the video at the centre of the case against him.

Pavlensky says the fact he combined “high art” (a portrait of a politician) with “low” or “vulgar” art (genitalia) has “caused a real cataclysm in France”. He adds: “It’s been hard for me as an artist to get through this. Conservatives of all stripes have thrown off their masks and clung to me with their fangs like starving dogs.”

Pavlensky says he is not surprised that he will stand trial in June. “Because Pornopolitics is my artwork, as an artist I have affixed my signature to it. And since the value system of contemporary art conflicts with the value system of the penal code, by signing my artwork, I also signed my verdict,” he says.

“Everything that we have seen from the moment I have presented Pornopolitics to the public was in fact only one of the many episodes of the eternal collision between art and power. However, the fact that aesthetic categories continue to mean so much in today’s world is a real surprise to me.”

Begun in 2020, Pornopolitics was shown in London, at a/political’s space, last October in an exhibition backed by the sex-cam TV station Babestation. The French authorities refused to let him out of the country to attend the opening, his first solo UK exhibition. Pavlensky sought asylum in France after fleeing Russia in 2017. Under French law, Pavlensky could face up to two years in prison for publishing sexual content without the consent of the participants.

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