Dec 10, 2013

Ron Athey: Trojan Whore & It’s Scripted




Ron Athey—a somewhat muscular and fit fellow covered from head to toe with tattoos and self-carved battle scars—is a strange American man whose rather unconventional career as a HIV positive ‘extreme performance artist’ (aka he sheds contaminated blood in a superlatively (sado)masochistic manner for aberrant adoring audiences) I have been following somewhat unintentionally for about a decade or so. I first discovered Athey due to my long interest in the music and art of Rozz Williams (lead singer of the deathrock/goth group Christian Death and co-director of the S&M serial killer flick Pig (1998)) as the two subversive sodomite lovers (Athey lived with Rozz at the time) used to collaborate on the industrial music project Premature Ejaculation in the early 1980s. Through Premature Ejaculation, Athey first demonstrated his perverse prowess as a performance artist by eating a dead cat on stage in 1981. Most infamously, Athey hit the media spotlight in 1994 when Republican senator Jesse Helms accused the poof performance artist of exposing audience members to tainted blood during a show entitled Four Scenes in a Harsh Life at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis that was partially (and hilariously!) federally funded via the National Endowment for the Arts. To be quite honest, my sole interest in Athey is in regard to his various (oftentimes uncredited!) idiosyncratic performances in mostly underground films, including The Blind Owl (1992) directed by Reza Abdoh, Single White Female (1992) directed by Barbet Schroeder, Hustler White (1996) co-directed by Bruce LaBruce and Rick Castro, Sex/Life in L.A. (1998) directed by Jochen Hick, Shadow Hours (2000) directed by Isaac H. Eaton, and No One Sleeps (2000) directed by Jochen Hick, among various appearances in body modification documentaries. Somewhat recently, I received a copy of the dvd Two Ron Athey Films by Aryan Kaganof (1997-1999) aka Ron Athey: Trojan Whore & It’s Scripted, which includes two rare short documentaries entitled Ron Athey: It’s Scripted (1997) and Ron Athey is the Trojan Whore (1999) directed by South African auteur Aryan Kaganof (though he directed these films when he was still going under his birth name Ian Kerkhof) and featuring Mr. Athey performing his sordid aesthetic brutality in France. Grainy digital video documents from S&M performance art purgatory, Two Ron Athey Films by Aryan Kaganof depicts a discernibly damaged and self-damaging man who, despite his theatric ‘bad blood artist’ transgressions, seems like a rather nice fellow with nil pretensions, be it as an ‘artiste’ or as an individual. Seeming like a deranged drag queen equivalent to the Cenobite characters from Clive Barker Hellraiser (1987), Ron Athey demonstrates through his flesh-tearing and penis-piercing performances that “There is so many ways to say Hallelujah” and that when you are a fearless sadomasochistic sodomite with gay cancer, brutalizing your body for audiences can have spiritual and transcendental properties in our aberrant pre-apocalyptic age. 



 Curiously, the two short docs featured on the Two Ron Athey Films by Aryan Kaganof dvd are presented out of chronological order, which I assume was done so South African auteur Kaganof could save the best for last as Ron Athey: It’s Scripted (1997) is easily the more interesting and informative doc of the two featured on the dvd. Beginning with Ron Athey is the Trojan Whore (1999), one sees Mr. Athey come out to perform for a French audience wearing a fancy white wedding dress (with big fake tits to boot!) and at his side is a brazenly butch bull-dyke chick who also enjoys driving metal hooks through her skin as if she is a piece of fresh meat in a butcher shop. As discordant melodies from a violin play in the background, Athey finally ‘undresses’ and exposes that every part of his body, including his pecker, is bloodied and brutalized. In the end, the performers leave as abruptly as they appeared, as if members of a secret occult congregation à la Eyes Wide Shut (1999). If Ron Athey is the Trojan Whore is a warm-up to the spiritually and aesthetically apocalyptic realm of Ron Athey, Ron Athey: It’s Scripted (1997), which was filmed at the Freak Zone festival in Lille, France in May 1997, is the climatic sadomasochistic sermon, which the perturbed priest-like performer opens up with by soundly stating, “There is so many ways to say Hallelujah.” As Athey somewhat shyly (!) reveals in the short doc, he was raised to be a minister in the Pentecostal church in “the desert in California,” adding, “I think that makes me have a sort of unique take on things.” In Ron Athey: It’s Scripted, Athey candidly reveals that through his experiences with the Pentecostal Church he was able to learn how to channel automatic writing and that the Christian religion ultimately opened him up to magic and mysticism, which he continues to utilizing today, albeit in the sacrilegious sadomasochistic form of his perturbing performance art. Using his performance art as a mischievous method of “rejecting and redefining spirituality,” Athey is probably the first man in the world to codify a ‘bad blood’-based religion in the age of AIDS that promotes self-flagellation for self-flagellation’s sake. After quitting the Pentecostal church while a teenage and ultimately failing to achieve his supposedly God-ordained right to become a holy minister, Athey was left with a spiritual void that he ultimately filled with his peculiar brand of performance art, thus becoming an unholy minister of sorts. In one particularly telling interview segment of Ron Athey: It’s Scripted, Athey basically sums up his Weltanschauung as follows, “I think it’s better to be through a lot of highs and lows in life then to be lukewarm,” which is certainly one thing I can agree with him on. At the conclusion of Ron Athey: It’s Scripted, Athey states regarding his career, “I don’t have an agenda… I don’t want the whole world to be pierced and tattooed… I don’t want the whole world to like my performance work because I am showing the sort of spiritual, ritualistic side of me,” thus demonstrating he is not merely out to shock the general public, but to live in his own quasi-religious world as an iconoclastic individual as opposed to a mindless member of the mass collective. As a man who was desensitized by Pentecostal insanity and drug addiction (he confesses his family got him hooked on Xanax, Codeine, and various forms of downers) essentially at birth, Athey has certainly transcended any sort of traditional understanding of what taboos are and he does not exactly seem to be proud of it, but at least in Ron Athey: It’s Scripted he demonstrates that he was able to fill a seemingly perennial void and make a career out of something that would make most people cringe with disgust, which, for better or worse, is a strikingly singular accomplishment of sorts. 



 Undoubtedly, if nothing else, Two Ron Athey Films by Aryan Kaganof offers a short but bittersweet introduction to the life and art of Ron Athey. As someone who associates tattoos and ‘body modification’ (aka body mutilation) with (ethno)masochism (indeed, it is no coincidence that it is mostly whites that are enamored with this aesthetically displeasing and self-destructive subculture), I can still respect Ron Athey because he seems to be doing what he loves, not to mention having a lot of ‘fun’ whilst doing it, even if he gets his AIDS-addled blood everywhere in the process. Aside from Kaganof’s two shorts and the other films I have already mentioned in this review, Ron Athey fans might also want to checkout out the ‘Georges Bataille tribute’ performance art documentaries The Monster in the Night of the Labyrinth (2007) and its equally perturbing quasi-sequel Visions of Excess (2009). Aesthetic terrorism in its most unadulterated form starring and directed by Athey, both The Monster in the Night of the Labyrinth and Visions of Excess are so unrelentingly repulsive in their imagery that they would have probably been found decidedly degenerate by even Monsieur Bataille himself. Although I could not track to a copy of the film myself, the documentary Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance (1998) co-directed by Catherine Gund and Catherine Saalfield is also purportedly mandatory-viewing for Athey-philes. In terms of being Aryan Kaganof films, Ron Athey: It’s Scripted and Ron Athey is the Trojan Whore are the least auteur-driven works by the South African filmmaker that I have seen thus far, yet they are no less visceral and darkly humorous in terms of subject matter when compared to the director's other films.  Indeed, a sort of work of Cinéma vérité meets neo-tribal ethnographic film, Two Ron Athey Films by Aryan Kaganof is an audacious document of Europid derangement during our culture-distorting zeitgeist of globalization and deracination.  If Ron Athey is the messiah of a sort of post-national/post-racial tribe and culture, I do not even what to know what his idea of the apocalypse looks like.



-Ty E

12 comments:

Jennifer Croissant said...

That geezer looks like hes got a red knob.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The best way and reason for people to say 'hallelujah' will be a few decades from now when "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" will finally be brought to a thankful and merciful end and that brave new world of literally every concievable kind of sexual freedom will materialise into reality at last, like i said, saying 'hallelujah' then will be THE most appropriate use of that word in the entire history of the universe.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

well, its unfortunate of course that we`ll have to put up with that horse-shit, but obviously i`m just interested in the new heterosexual freedoms that will materialise.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

That bull-dyke ain`t a bad looking slag, at least shes got a twat which is more than can be said for the other faggots featured here.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Ty E, do you really think we`re living in a pre-apocalyptic age ?, thats gonna` be such a shame, "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" will be just about to end and then the giant mushrooms will appear everywhere and spoil everything, we`ll be back to where we started, its gonna` be so absurd.

the sneering (homo-phobic) snob said...

That bird with the arrows stuck in her is quite tasty too, once again its the twat that throws it for me, if someones got a twat i`m interested, if they`ve got a dick i`m not.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

The smiling geezer with the microphone in the shadows looks like that ludicrous British turd Steven Berkoff.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

When "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" is over literally everything from our period of history will seem so absurd and idiotic to people, just as all the religious nonsense from the middle ages seems equally absurd and idiotic to us, its an exact parralel.

jervaise brooke hamster said...

Much as i always enjoy reading them, the last few reveiws have been getting rather obscure again Ty E (even Gaspar Noes films are obscure to most people), isn`t it about time for another reveiw of a more well known classic cult horror movie of some kind ! ?.

the sayer of the truth said...

For over 100 years now Hollywood has been selling its product with sex without ever actually showing any sex ! ! !, how the hell are they still getting away with that con, that lie, that deception ?, especially in this day and age.

Jennifer Croissant said...

I`ve never really understood body piercing or tattooing, to me its all ludicrous nonsense.

DIONYSOS ANDRONIS said...

HOMO AMERICANUS
de Tomislav SUNIC, éditions Akribeia, 2010, pp.288

Cet essai historico-politique sur les batards américains est une étude profonde sur les causes du mal planétaire d'aujourd'hui. Notre philosophe neo-paganiste Alain De Benoist nous rappele sur les premières pages qu'"ils n'ont pas d'histoire" (op.cit,p.81). A partir des premières pages font leur apparition "les scénarios d'une possible balkanisation de l'Amérique"(op.cit.page 52) mais ils sont abandonnés plus tard. L'auteur de cet essai avait vécu aux Etats Unis dans le passé mais il est revenu plus tard à sa Croatie natale. C'est dommage que son ouvrage "La Croatie, un pays par défaut?" aux éditions mortes aujourd'hui "Avatar" est épuisé. Nous avons retenu une phrase tres profonde au début :"Dans les prochaines années, les avantages sociaux communistes, aussi spartiates qu'ils parussent autrefois aux observateurs étrangers, seront très demandés par un nombre croissant de citoyens en Amérique et dans l'Europe américanisée" (op.cit.p.89).
Un chapitre de l'ouvrage s'appelle "les origines bibliques du fondamentalisme américain" et sur la page 169 l'auteur nous explique "qu'ils existent des profonds liens théologiques entre l'américanisme (un chapitre entier est consacré avant à sa définition) et le judaisme" (op.cit.p.169). Sur la page qui suit nous avons retenu aussi ces phrases magiques : "L'épouvantail de l'antisémitisme ou des accusations de negationnisme sont les meilleures armes pour faire taire les hérétiques postmodernes. Comment peut-on rejeter l'histoire évidente d'un Jesus-Christ juif ?" (op.cit.p.170).
Mais vraiment la phrase qui nous a entousiasmé a été celle-ci : "...on comprend pourquoi (à la fin du vingtième siècle, NDLR) les élites ont été désireuses d'entamer le processus de démarxisation de l'enseignement supérieur américain et européen" (op.cit.p.204). Et le Grand Philosophe Dominique Venner pourrait facilement devenir le sujet occulte de cet ouvrage puisqu'il a contesté avec son suicide le message chrétien radical de Sunic, quatre années après sa traduction.
Il ne nous reste maintenant qu'à féliciter le traducteur Claude Martin pour son travail artistique extraordinaire. Malgré les 288 pages, cet essai a été une lecture très agréable nour nous.
écrit par Dionysos Andronis