Ron Athey: Video Stills and Set Pieces From An Opera / 2006

September 16 – October 28, 2006

Opening reception: Saturday September 16th, 5-8pm.

Western Project is pleased to present the first solo exhibition by Ron Athey. As one of the most important performance artists in the last twenty years, his work has influenced a generation of younger artists. Athey nose-dives into subjects and content which are visceral, challenging and difficult – the corporeal flesh, its possibilities and the knowledge it can reveal. His work can be traced from the historic lineage of Herman Nitsch, the Vienna Action Group, Leigh Bowery and Amy Semple McPherson. The exhibition includes:

Video Stills: select images from Athey’s performances The Solar Anus (1998-2000) and Sebastian Suspended (1999) in 6x8” format.

Set Pieces from an Opera: The Judas Cradle (2005-06): reconstruction of medieval torture device and circular “glossalalia station.”

“Ron Athey’s asshole has its own place in the history of contemporary performance art. In the 1998-2000 Solar Anus, he pulls a string of pearls from the puckered orifice, decorated with an elaborate and appealingly symmetrical black sunburst tattoo.  His body is both shown to be holy (inspired by a divine something, its potential transcendence forever yanked back to the immanence of holes and flesh) and enacted as a picture – but of what? Saying “queer body” or “queer subject” is not enough.”

--Amelia Jones, “Holy Body,” TDR 2006

In Ron Athey’s Video Stills, intimate 6x8” photographic works, narratives unfold into quite different disparate directions. In the Sebastian Suspended series, Athey is martyred by Darryl Carlton and frames reveal a dissociated ecstatic. In Solar Anus, an homage to both Georges Bataille and Pierre Molinier,  Athey becomes far more garish, transforming his face (and asshole) into something glamorous and unreal.

The individual Set Pieces polarize between rugged (wooden anal torture device) and sparkle (circular frame with solid beaded curtain), both designed and used to perform in physical trance states: transcendent atrocity exhibition through live penetration, ecstatic state through channeling spirit language.

“In JC, the highest of high culture (opera) is turned inside out. The habituated body of the heterosexual matrix (exaggeratedly performed in opera) is violently wrenched from its place through the deliberate perversions of sado-masochism – the dual poles of which themselves are parodied and overturned as Athey and Snapper continually change roles.”

--Amelia Jones, “Holy Body,” TDR 2006

Ron Athey is a Los Angeles-based artist and writer. He has recently shown work at the Hayward Gallery in London, and the NRLA in Glasgow. His upcoming November multi-media performance (made in collaboration with Dominic Johnson) inspired by the myth of Philoctetes, will premiere at London’s Chelsea Theatre. He has previously exhibited at , and previously at the Matthew Marks Gallery, NY, The Walker Art Museum, MN, the Institute of Contemporary Art, London and numerous other institutions in France, Germany, Denmark, Croatia, Slovania, Italy, Brazil, Belgium, etc.

Relevant books:

Saint Sebastian: A Splendid Readiness for Death, catalogue from Kunsthalle group show, Wien

Live Culture, catalogue from Tate Modern group show, artist pages and writing