Monday, December 12, 2011


"I have no body:
I make endurance my body..."

Ron Athey and I do not know each other. I have never been able to actually observe Athey's work. I have met him and spoken to him a few times. I have vague retro-memories of him at Vinyl Fetish when it was on Melrose and owned by Joseph Brooks, in the 1980's. 

Really, I suppose I should say I know "of him".

However, Ron Athey's work has effected my life in deeply profound ways.  And his work and explorations have expanded the things I believed possible to such a degree that I have to say the world became a less frightening, less chaotic, and more filled with possibilities than movies like the Matrix.  

Athey 's performances have contributed to my ever expanding beliefs about the limits of the body, and the mind-body connection.  Ron Athey is as much a part of my motivation for beginning a yoga practice and strengthening of my own physical capabilities as my own vanity, health problems, or desire to learn the secrets of the anciet yogis-- like levitating and transcending violent deaths.

(During my own "bleeding/ female trouble" years with those uterine cysts and in the hospital, the whole extreme body art movement- not just Athey- often gave me the endurance to carry on.  What is one's own life but a long performance piece? Won't we all suffer greatly for our art? And somehow I can find the strength to continue another day.)

Athey is most often compared to Bob Flanagan but Flanagan was hetero-identified, if I recall, and more importantly, had cystic fibrosis. I've heard Athey called a secular (and sexual) Sufi, but again, for superficial reasons.  To convey the more shocking, self-mutilating aspect of Athey's work.

A mutual acquaintance of Athey's called him a "true Warrior". And I agree. But even warriors went to war, those berserkers, running into battle naked and mad.  Athey is better compared to a self-crucifying Christ. (And he does do a lot of exploration of Christianity in his work, as well.) Or perhaps a suspended Odin in performance.

He is slayer and slain, predator and prey, creator and destroyer.  He is Kali and Shiva; he is Anu and Tiamat both.

"I have no divine powers:
I make honesty my divine power."

Athey himself, as the instrument of his art, and as his corpus as the literal materials for creation of his art, transcends the physical dimension and embraces the most isolated and lonely places within it. His is the realm of the dark side of the moon.

Where is that place, in each of us, that must submit to be turned away from the light of the sun? For the moon to light the darkness, a trip into the abyss must be made, and part of us turned away from the light, and from the familiar, comforting vision of Terra Firma.

His work is so likely to produce a strong reaction in most people, that even in his mundane life his physical presence creates a visceral reaction...and that is even before you see his heavily tattooed face and body.

Athey comforts me as an extremely empathic psychic as well.  In the movie Unbreakable, Bruce Willis is an unbreakable, superhero strong, everyman.  He is the karmic or natural balance to Samuel L. Jackson's "bones like glass" character.  It makes sense to me that there is someone like Athey out there, given that even the photos on his website make me squeamish. (

Ron Athey's performances eclipse all times and dimensions and experiences.  It is not possible to be anywhere other than fully present when viewing Athey penetrating himself with the Throne of Judas, or whacking himself bloody and hen creating designs from his blood. 

And, like music, his performances are created so completely and organically between performer and observer, that each performance becomes a marker in the collabrative life or shared relationship of the artist and his art and beholder of the art.

You will not forget that moment. You can not forget that moment.  You want to remember.  The strength, the power, the willingness to surrender,  is always there. 

"I have no life and death:
I make the tides of breathing my life and death..."

He has a book project right now that he was kickstarting. I would pre-buy this in a minute. I donated money to it, too. It is called Pleading In The Blood.

The quotes are from:

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