by Tom Chaits on August 14, 2021

in Theater-Los Angeles


Better get tickets NOW. The influential performance artist and provocateur Ron Athey is coming to L.A.’s REDCAT Aug. 26 to 28, 2021 to present the Los Angeles premiere of Acephalous Monster, a performance with projections, readings, lectures, appropriated text and sound. Largely inspired by the secret society of Acéphale, Andre Masson’s design of a mascot, and drawing parallels between pre-Occupation 1930s Paris with pre-Operation Spanner UK, the work is an attempt to make sense of a current reality where neo-fascism is mutating, creeping, and marching.

For more than three decades, Athey’s body of work has focused on creating new rituals through mortification of his body as an artistic practice toward the divine, the ecstatic and celebration of queerness and community. As one of the most generative and important performance artists to emerge in the twentieth century, Athey challenges traditional limits of artistic practice — activating the body as a site of trauma, resistance, sexuality, and religious ecstasy. The artist, who has been HIV positive since the mid-1980s, explores pain, fetishism, power, and queer politics, commenting on the intersections and synergies among Christian fundamentalist religious traditions and ritual, through highly visceral performances and interventions.

Drawing parallels with our contemporary life, with Acephalous Monster, a performance utilizing projections, readings, lectures, sound and appropriated text, Athey turns to the Acéphale, the figure of the headless man, which inspired philosopher George Bataille’s secret society of the same name to combat nihilism and fascism before the Second World War in France. The headless or beheaded man is a powerful symbol of radical transformation, the driving force of all of Athey’s performances pushing towards the merging of humans and gods.

The work unfolds in five scenes: A choreography based on sound poet Brion Gysin’s Pistol Poem (1960); a short Bataille lecture on the madness of Nietszche and the horse of Turin; and pantomimed interpretations of the decapitation of Louis XVI; the apotheosis of Dionysus, revealed in the Minotaur; and a cephalophore (decapitated saint) to the words of artist and occultist Genesis P-Orridge’s work, EsoTerrorist.

In this Los Angeles premiere, leading composer in contemporary music Sean Griffin and his consortium Opera Povera create an exquisite live score accompanying this transgressive work. Acephalous Monster is presented in conjunction with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles exhibition Queer Communion: Ron Athey, on view through Sept. 5, 2021. Acephalous Monster was commissioned by Performance Space New York.

Ron Athey: Acephalous Monster
REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)
631 West 2nd St (under Disney Hall)
Thursday, Aug. 26 at 8:30 p.m. PDT
Friday, Aug. 27 at 8:30 p.m. PDT
Saturday, Aug. 28 at 8:30 p.m. PDT
ends on February 24, 2019
for tickets ($13-$25), call 213-972-8001 or visit REDCAT

About Ron Athey
Ron Athey has been working at the vanguard of performance art for 25 years. Self-taught, his work developed out of post-punk/pre-goth scenes and begins with Premature Ejaculation (PE), an early 1980s collaboration with Rozz Williams. Their approach to performance art was informed by the club actions of Johanna Went and the formulation of Industrial Culture, the idea of psycho/neuro acoustics in sound performance. In the 1990s, Athey formed a company of performers and made Torture Trilogy, a series of works that addressed the AIDS pandemic directly through memorializing and philosophical reflection.

This work is characterized by the physical intensity of 1970s body-art canon, such as COUM Transmission, Carolee Schneeman and the Viennese Actionists, which toured internationally. The trilogy’s final chapter, Deliverance, was commissioned and premiered at the ICA London. In the 2000s, Athey developed genre-stretching theatrical works like Joyce and The Judas Cradle, and a series of major solo performances such as The Solar Anus, Sebastiane, Self-Obliteration Solo and Incorruptible Flesh, a series of solo performances that reflect Athey’s collaborations with the late Lawrence Steger.

Comments on this entry are closed.