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I remember one of the best performances in the s by Alexander Brener when he stood in the middle of a huge exhibition in the Central House of the Artist and punched staples into his backside with a stapler while eating a raw onion. This profane, anti-aesthetic act completely destroyed the exhibition with its refusal of glamour. Everyone who was there with Alexander remembers the Bourdellesque image of the body punctured with staples and still trembles from disgust and from this sense of helplessness and despair, reinforced by a sickening stench; even from this sense of a physical chill surrounding the solitary naked body of a man in a tub with a white onion.

The form of these works is the whole world, the whole human universe around them, and the content is real human pain, the decision to act in an absolutely hopeless situation, and there is always conflict, always scandal. If anyone in this country really genuinely does love Christ it is Brener, [Nadezhda] Tolokonnikova and [Maria] Alyokhina and Pavlensky — like him, they bear witness; not so much with their words and with their faith, but rather by becoming martyrs and, on behalf of everyone, pinning themselves to the feet of millions not knowing where they go.

David Thorp Curator. His extreme action combined the two worlds of art and political protest and quickly spread around the world. He used the poetic language of performance to a highly effective political end. There is a long history of mutilation in performance art. Apart from asking an assistant to shoot him in the arm and having himself nailed to the bonnet of a VW, Chris Burden had a star-shaped stud hammered into his sternum by a friend.

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Marina Abramovic cut a star shape on to her stomach in front of audience at Documenta IX. Gina Pane enacted carefully planned and deliberately controlled self-wounding. Franco B walked the length of Tate Modern with blood flowing from his arms. They and many others have all used endurance, ritualised pain, intense physical exertion and elements of real danger in order to demonstrate the extreme fragility of the body and the reality of suffering usually to small audiences in the rarefied environment if the art space.


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His action was not art - he calmly sat down in the middle of a street in South Vietnam in front of the Cambodian Embassy, while a fellow monk poured petrol over his head. A moment later, he set himself on fire. He was protesting against the systemic religious discrimination against Buddhists by the regime of dictator Ngo Dinh Diem.

In comparison to this the actions of performance artists seem to mean very little.

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At the end, Count Leofric seals the agreement about taxes with his own seal. One of the myth's most interesting subplots involves the role of "Peeping Tom," who doesn't even appear in the story until the seventeenth century. According to legend, the people of Coventry, as a gesture of respect and appreciation for Lady Godiva's actions on their behalf, stayed indoors behind shuttered windows to preserve her modesty as she passed. Everyone, that is, except Tom, whose lustful curiosity compelled him to gaze at her and who was then, according to various versions of the legend, struck either blind or dead in punishment.

Tom would also become a compelling figure for artists and authors. In the poem, Tom was blinded: " Given the sexual tension that the appearance of Tom creates between the observer and the observed, the prurient and the chaste, the punished and the rewarded, Donoghue writes, "Their pairing anticipates Sigmund Freud's clinical definitions of scopophilia and exhibitionism in terms of one another so well that he almost seems to have Peeping Tom in mind for the former and Lady Godiva for the latter.

Only in recent years has Peeping Tom become extricated from the Godiva legend to the extent that it is possible to mention one without calling to mind the other. The Godiva myth is filled with contradictions.