Ron Athey: Acephalous Monster
- Lorna Irvine
- 11 October 2019
Beautiful, brutal performance art from legendary artist
To experience Ron Athey live on stage is to see one of the world's most transgressive and mesmerising performance artists. Acephalous Monster is a rich, multi-layered piece. Weaving work from Brion Gysin and text from Throbbing Gristle / Psychic TV's Genesis P-Orridge, it interrogates individualism, madness and homogenised behaviour. Through Georges Bataille's erotic anti-Nazi philosophy, Athey brings industrial music, BDSM and an elegant, singular resistance to the space.
As the text – which he reads from a podium – fragments, he wittily transforms into an ululating Louis XVI, complete with wig and powder puff, awaiting his beheading: a rumination perhaps on how flamboyance was at once venerated and despised in the 18th century; yet also referencing the rise of the preening narcissistic tyrant and the need for total megalomania in the present day. Powder flies everywhere, but just like the lecture, lingers before it lands.
The Monster is symbolically decapitated, and Athey, now in full head mask, is thus othered as a performer. As performer Hermes Pittakos cuts into Athey's chest, the result is an ecstatic form of ritual purification.
He presents the need for the artistic identity to become obliterated and reborn. Such distortions, of identity, visuals and sound, create a seismic sensory overload, leaving the audience punch-drunk.
Reviewed at Buzzcut, CCA, Glasgow.