In 1994, the Walker presented artist Ron Athey’s Four Scenes in a Harsh Life at Patrick’s Cabaret. The infamous performance, which involved ritual incision, sparked a national debate on art and censorship leading to the slashing of the National Endowment for the Arts budget, the near-complete elimination of individual artists’ grants, and a powerful chilling effect on controversial artwork. Twenty-one years later, Athey reflects on how, and if, the needle on creative freedom has shifted in a discussion with former Walker performing arts curator John Killacky and art historian Jennifer Doyle. Moderated by feminist/queer theory scholar and art historian Lauren DeLand.
A book-signing immediately follows the conversation.
This lecture kicks off the Culture Wars: Then & Now (March 26–28), a weekend of events that revisits and reconsiders Athey’s performance in multiple contexts and formats. Scheduled programs include a symposium at the University of Minnesota (March 27) and evening performances at Patrick’s Cabaret (March 27 and 28).
About the Speakers
In his portrayals of life, death, crisis, and fortitude in the time of AIDS, artist Ron Athey calls into question the limits of artistic practice. Prevalent themes explored throughout his work include gender, sexuality, sadomasochism and radical sex, queer activism, post-punk and industrial culture, tattooing and body modification, ritual, and religion.
Jennifer Doyle, a professor of English at the University of California, Riverside, writes about the cultural politics of art and performance. Her published books include Hold It Against Me: Difficulty and Emotion in Contemporary Art (2013) and Sex Objects: Art and the Dialectics of Desire (2006). Doyle was the 2013–2014 Fulbright Distinguished Chair at the University of the Arts, London, and is the recipient of a 2012 Arts Writers Grant from Creative Capital/The Andy Warhol Foundation. She is also a sports writer and blogs at the Sport Spectacle.
John Killacky is executive director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont, and serves on the board of the Vermont Community Foundation. Previous positions include program officer for arts and culture at the San Francisco Foundation, executive director of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and curator of performing arts at the Walker Art Center (1988–1996). He has written numerous publications on the arts, written and directed several award-winning short films and videos, and is a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio.
Lauren DeLand holds a doctoral degree from the department of art history at the University of Minnesota, where she wrote her dissertation on the eroticized male artist’s body in postwar American art. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the journals Performance Research and Criticism, and in the forum Quodlibetica. DeLand is currently a visiting assistant professor of art history at Macalester College.