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Walker Reader

Ron Athey

Ron Athey is an iconic figure in the development of contemporary art and performance. In his often-bloody portrayals of life, death, crisis, and fortitude in the time of AIDS, Athey calls into question the limits of artistic practice. These limits enable him to explore key themes including: gender, sexuality, SM and radical sex, queer activism, post-punk and industrial culture, tattooing and body modification, ritual, and religion. He began performing at underground galleries with Rozz Williams in 1981, in a collaboration known as Premature Ejaculation. In 1992 he began staging what was to become a performance “torture” trilogy: Martyrs & Saints, Four Scenes in a Harsh Life, and Deliverance. Recent works include Judas Cradle, Self-Obliteration, and Gifts of the Spirit: Automatic Writing, in which he explores his Pentacostal upbringing and the creation of an ecstatic experience. Also a visual artist and journalist, he recently celebrated the release of the first publication dedicated to his life and work, Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performance of Ron Athey (2013), edited by Dominic Johnson.