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Penetration in Live Art and Video: a lecture by Ron Athey

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Penetration in Live Art and Video

Penetration – be it bodily, spiritual or sexual – is a recurring motif in Ron Athey‘s work. In this lecture, which comes as he begins work on a new project, Athey will explore the artistic potential of the contemporary post-porn movement in relation to his practice.

With recourse to works including Deliverance: Rod’n’Bob A Post AIDS Boy-Boy Show (1995), Judas Cradle (2005), Incorruptible Flesh: Messianic Remains (2013) and Acephalous Monster: Dionysus vs. The Crucified One (2019), and works by artists including Annie Sprinkle, Fred Halsted and Melvin van Peebles, Ron will discuss how he has deployed anal and vaginal penetration in the service of autobiography, as ritual and mythological action, and as a defiant tactic to contest political and cultural sex negativity in the time of AIDS.

Marking his contribution to our online Summer Programme, LADA is delighted to host this live lecture by one of our artist Patrons – the iconic cultural figure Ron Athey.


The artist is nude except for a blonde wig. He is surrounded by glass panes covered in his own blood. Ron Athey, Self Obliteration, 2011, Ljubljana. Image credit Miha Fras. LADA Publishing, Pleading in the Blood, The Art and Performances of Ron Athey, Intellect Live, in partnership with Intellect Books

How will it work?

Please RSVP by booking through eventbrite. The booking link will be closed 60 minutes prior to the lecture starting. Shortly before 7.30pm you will be emailed a link to join the lecture.

All LADA’s events are free, but please consider donating in support of the Black Lives Matter and movements for racial justice.

About Ron Athey

Ron Athey is an iconic cultural figure who started in performance in the early 1980s in context of L.A.’s underground music scene as a duo with Rozz Williams of Christian Death. In 1990 during the AIDS pandemic, he started showing individual and group works at art spaces like LACE, PS122, Highways, Randolph Street Gallery, and ICA London. Three major works comprising The Torture Trilogy were AIDS memorials about the nature of healing—tapping into the historical archetypes of religious painting and deity worship. The content of this work looked at the dead at what healing could be. These works toured worldwide throughout the 1990s, with themes such as Christian martyr saints, putting forth philosophical questions about the nature of identity, and questioning the limits of artistic practice. A monograph of his output was published in 2013: “Pleading in the Blood”, edited by Dominic Johnson; “Queer Communion“, a new book edited by Amelia Jones and Andy Campbell, was published in 2020.

In 2005 and 2018 he collaborated in experimental opera projects with soprano/musicologist Juliana Snapper, and Sean Griffin, opera composer. In 2018 he premiered Gifts of the Spirit, an opera made from automatic writing in layers leading up to real-time, made possible with a Mike Kelley Foundation Grant and the Broad Museum, held in L.A.’s 19th century cathedral of Vibiana. In November 2018 he premiered a new solo work in PSNY’s Posthuman series, “Acephalous Monster,” inspired by the Georges Bataille-led secret society of Acephale, a group of intellectuals that were using magic ritual to unseat fascism. A new collaborative work by Athey, Cassils and Arshia Fatima Haq premiered December 2018 at the Biosphere 2, entitled cyclic, presented by MOCA Tucson.

Coming up in 2020 is a survey of his output, curated and organized by the Art Historian and Roski chair, Amelia Jones, set to show at Participant, Inc. NYC; and other venues nationally, which will include set pieces, costumes, and photographs.

Solar Anus, Ron Athey. Photo by Regis Hertrich
Ron Athey lectures students on the MA Live Art. Guest lecture with Ron Athey, MA Live Art, 2019. Photo by Joseph Morgan Schofield.
Ron Athey. Photo by Jamie McLeod
Tiny Live Art (Development Agency) by Robert Daniels, featuring Ron Athey, Self Obliteration

LADA's Summer Programme

Between Monday 8 June and Sunday 19 July, LADA will present an online Summer Programme – weekly offerings of screenings, talks, presentations and ‘live’ online events that draw upon the incredible resources and resourcefulness of the artists and organisations who work with, around, and for Live Art. This programme will include contributions by LADA’s artist Patrons, a selection of LADA Screens Greatest Hits and the presentations of Once More with Feeling – a series of instruction and reenactment pieces commissioned by LADA during the Covid-19 pandemic.

During these times we strive to remain a resource for our community: responding to the pandemic, and the associated states of isolation, lockdown and distancing, LADA has compiled this ongoing list of support and resources for artists and arts workers, have sought proposals for two online, collaborative home-based residencies, and begun a series of ‘Lockdown Lists‘ which draw attention to the ways in which contemporary and historic Live Art practices speak to the issues and conditions of lockdown.

Check out LADA’s Summer Programme
A man dances in the desert wearing a robe. 'Z', Keith Khan, 2020. Still from video. LADA Screens, 2020. Image courtesy of the artist.

Banner image credit:

Acephalous Monster, Ron Athey, 2019. Image by Rachel Papo.

Part of LADA's Summer Programme 2020

A season of weekly offerings of screenings, talks, presentations and ‘live’ online events.

LADA’s Summer Programme 2020

A season of weekly offerings of screenings, talks, presentations and ‘live’ online events.

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