You really need to know about Russian artist Pavel Petel (NSFW)

By James Branson

A while back I ran an Instagram account dedicated solely to posting the weirdest art images I could possibly find. I had images of gay Jesus, frogs made out of French Fries… all types of crazy shit.

And then I stumbled upon this, perhaps the single strangest image I’ve ever encountered:

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What. Is. Going. On? I asked myself. Why is this muscular fellow in a mankini and a blonde wig pushing a maniacal disabled kid in a wheelchair holding two AK-47s?

After some investigation (well, a quick Google search really), I found myself deep within the world of Russian performance artist and LGBTQI activist Pavel Petel. Petel’s images are amazing: humorous, striking, thoughtful… he plays with his gender and body with a skill and sense of refinement that is reserved only for the very best artists.

His body is a work of Pop Art, and it’s on par with anything I’ve seen.

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Since Russia’s recent anti-gay laws, and Vladimir Putin’s cynical tactic of ostracising the country’s gay community to score political points, Petel has recently struggled in a country that only a few years ago he felt celebrated his boundary pushing work.

“People in the regions are very aggressive towards gays. Sergey (Petel’s boyfriend) and I were lucky to be alive last year because some people wanted to kill us. My fear has been growing since then,” he recently told CNN.

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“I was working on my video when I turned on the TV and saw video of one anchor of a Russian channel who said that you need to burn the gays’ hearts. I had to continue to smile, perform, say ‘hello sexy’ but it was difficult. I started to be afraid.

“I’m dressed down now when I go on to the street and I’m afraid police could arrest me. They can implement the law against me. I know that I’m not safe.”

“I’m afraid to do what I used to. I’ll probably change. I’m scared to come to the streets now wearing wigs or heels. I’ve started to wear them much more rarely.”

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The Russian crackdown on gay rights is certainly one of the most brutal and terrifying in the modern world right now, and the fact that someone like Petel is afraid to practise his art is heartbreaking.

Think on that while you’re looking at Petel’s absolutely stunning work.


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