He crucified himself on an X cross in Marat Guelman's gallery in Moscow, at 18.00 pm on 22nd September 2001, and he does it often. When a journalist asked him why, he said: "what can I do if that's the only way how an artist now can get attention on his work.."He also speaks about revolution. On the day of his performance,there was a 2 meter high wooden X cross in the Gallery, like the cross on the flyer. Oleg enters the room wearing cut jeans, bare torso, a strong and big man, full of life. His legs have wounds of previous performances. The room is becoming full with people, art critics, journalists, artists, students...
Oleg moves back against the cross and a guy steps from the crowd with a large roll of adhesive tape in the hand and starts to tie him up to the cross, first scotching his stomach to the middle of the X. Between the violent tearing sounds of the tape Oleg says :" I made this performance in Hungary, now it is the continuation". And while they are attaching his open arms and legs to the branches of the X cross, he keeps on talking.
Once he's well festened, he calls another man in, who walks out of the crowd a hammer and nails in his hand. The public steps forward to see better, everybody is talking, or commenting, it's very noisy : "he makes this performance often, he has piercings in the hands and feet..." I try to see the piercings in his hands but i don't manage, they look plain.
The scotcher unscotches Oleg's right hand and the piercer starts to nail it to the wooden cross. The sound of the hammer makes the whole situation suddenly feel very real.
I'm realizing that this performer will be crucified in front of us, I feel it's a bit crazy.
Oleg shouts as a drop of blood rolls along his arm. Then his second hand is nailed, and his both feet. They unscotch him completely and he's only holding there against the cross with the nails. His breathing is loud. I wish there would be silence, but the crowd is ever so noisy, doesn't stop commenting, talking, moving.. I'm hurting for him, I wonder why he does this, why we are letting him do it.
He says : " You see what contemporary artists have to do nowadays ? " And he moans because of the pain he must feel : " You see what the public is waiting for ? " Everybody stares, some people take pictures, videos.
It seems like an eternity before Oleg Mavromati calls the guys to unnail him. More blood leeks from his hands. The scene is like a live biblical 'descent of the cross'. It reminds of all those paintings showing the people holding the body of the dead Christ, the feeling of compassion. The performer is accompanied to a small back room by the guys who attached, nailed and detached him. Drops of blood trace his path..
Many people leave. In the gallery a girl is using the back of the flyers to take prints of the drops of blood on the floor, then she's installing them on one corner of the room.
The ritual seems to continue also in the back room, I peep in and see Oleg Mavromati lying on the floor. A girl dressed in black is cleaning the blood from his legs with a wet cloth. She applies it on him, rinses then rings it out, and applies it on him again. His body is strong opposed to his hands and feet which look so fragile and bloody now. Another person rolls a white cloth around the wounded limbs, covering the stigmas.
His art has such an impact on his personal life. He'll feel the pain from the crucifixion for long. Some journalists come in and take an interview. They talk with him about art as a way of initiating revolutions in how people see things.
I feel he shows in a very powerful way how life can be violent, how one can be crazy to the point of hurting oneself sometimes. I ask him if he likes doing this and he says " Yes, I like it, that's why I do it, but don't think I'm a masochist in my private life ".
And the installation continues: someone put some fresh raisins in the middle of the cross.
Text by Celine Smith / Way to Russia Guide ( http://waytorussia.net/WhatIsRussia/Art.html