Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey – paperback


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Johnson’s committed, affectionate, and generous volume does an extraordinary job of paying homage to Athey, of grappling with the complexities of live art, and of doing justice to the wildness of belief that is perhaps the key theme in Athey’s work and in his contentious critical reception.”

… a wonderful and rich example of how to do a history of performance art… Without a doubt, the standard for any future writings on Athey will be the challenging, poly-vocal, and powerful testament offered by Pleading in the Blood.”

Contemporary Theatre Review, 2014

While Johnson alludes to Athey’s biography, the performance artist is given space to tell his own childhood which is fitting as both now literary image and visual image are under Athey’s control. The whole book appears a lesson in discipline. It seeks to dispel myth. It wants to get the record straight.”

Richard Maguire, Lambda Literary Review

Ron Athey is an iconic figure in contemporary art and performance. In his frequently 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 Athey to explore key themes including gender, sexuality, radical sex, queer activism, postpunk and industrial culture, tattooing and body modification, ritual, and religion.

Pleading in the Blood includes three newly commissioned essays on different aspects of Athey’s work by Adrian Heathfield, Amelia Jones, and Dominic Johnson. These scholarly essays are complemented by shorter texts by Homi K. Bhabha, Jennifer Doyle, Tim Etchells, Guillermo Gómez-Pea, Matthew Goulish, Lydia Lunch, Juliana Snapper, Julie Tolentino, Alex Binnie, Catherine (Saalfield) Gund, Bruce LaBruce and Catherine Opie, along with a hand-written text from Robert Wilson. The book also includes Athey’s own writings, including new pieces and hard-to-find archival texts.

The publication is lavishly illustrated with full-colour images by photographers including Catherine Opie, Manuel Vason, Slava Mogutin, Dona Ann McAdams, Bruce LaBruce, Rick Castro, Sheree Rose, Edward Colver, Jennifer Precious Finch, and others.

Antony Hegarty (Antony and the Johnsons) has written a foreword to the publication.

Intellect and Live Art Development Agency, 2013. 248 pages, colour images throughout, hardback: 28cm x 21cm, paperback: 17 x 23 cm.

ISBN: 978-1783204274 (paperback)


This publication is the second in the Intellect Live book series. Intellect Live is a collaboration between Intellect Books and the Live Art Development Agency. The series is characterized by lavishly illustrated and beautifully designed books that are created through close collaborations between artists and writers, and that are the first substantial publication dedicated to the artists’ work.

View other titles in the Intellect Live series.



Trade orders: Intellect Books. Find the details on Unbound Trade Orders and Distribution Information page.

Additional information

Weight 770.0 kg