Ron Athey - Incorruptible Flesh: Messianic Remains

Glasgay presents

Ron Athey - Incorruptible Flesh: Messianic Remains

Tue 11 - Wed 12 Nov 2014 | 7.30pm | £15 / £10 | 18+

Dressed in vestmental finery, a funeral processions draws its pulse from Genet‘s Lady of the Flowers and Athey arises from the viewing into a walking meditation….

The fourth installation in the Incorruptible Flesh series, Messianic Remains is a solo performance commissioned by Performance Studies International, debuted at Stanford University in June 2013. Returning to the laid-in-state sexualized corpse scene presented as a static image in [Dissociative Sparkle], the messianic impulse/prophecy is activated.  As in earlier works in the series, Athey rides the grandiose myth of enlightenment that only the face of death may reveal.

The concept of the Incorruptible Flesh series took form a year before the three-therapy HIV drug treatment would give hope by halting the numbers of AIDS deaths. In a research residence at the CCA Glasgow in February 1996, Athey and collaborator, Lawrence Steger studied the lives of saints, the relics and in particular, the display of the ‘incorruptible’ bodies, most of which are wax sculptures with a corpse inside. Applying the status of ‘incorruptible’ upon their own dying HIV+ bodies, Athey and Steger wove solo actions into interactions – including The Trojan Whore which Athey performed at the memorials for Leigh Bowery in 1998. The final action in the piece contained the image of the living corpse on display: Athey laid out on a simple plank, tended to by Steger (whose monstrous special effects makeup suggested decomposing). The live AIDS body, on-display, anointed (greased) and bathed in golden light marked the glorification of what- in future performances- [Dissociative Sparkle] and Perpetual Wound- became the more estoteric post-AIDS body. Lawrence Steger died in February 1999.

[Dissociative Sparkle] was performed in February 2006, exactly 10 years later, for the National Review of Live Art in Glasgow and was later repeated at Artists Space in NYC .  Here, Athey presented his first durational piece – a 6-hour solo performance. Honouring the anniversary of his collaboration with/and the loss of Steger, Athey used the static, martyred image of his body, suffering on a rack. The audience took the role of Steger, anointing Athey’s body in grease. As in The Trojan Whore, the body was enhanced; tortured, but not vulnerable. Invaded by hooks, bat and rack, his skin was bronzed and shining, genitals inflated to grotesque size with medical saline.

For Perpetual Wound, 2007, Athey worked in collaboration with a younger artist, Dominic Johnson, and focused on this trans-generational relationship mythologically, characterizing Sophocles’ pairing of Philoctetes and Neoptolemus. Philoctetes (Athey), in exile for possessing a stinking weeping wound that would not heal, was seduced by Neoptolemus (Johnson) into returning to battle and directions to receive healing. This reality comes to fruition during the start of a dance, wherein a sheet of glass on a stand is used as a prophylaxis, protecting the younger man from the shared wound.

Photography by Manuel Vason.


Please note: This performance contains live body modification.