REDCAT Presents Ron Athey: “Acephalous Monster” Aug. 26-28

Los Angeles Premiere. Aug. 26-28, 2021. Presented in partnership with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles






“No documentation, audio recording or visual record could ever capture the drama or reverie achieved from actually attending a Ron Athey show…”- Dangerous Minds
 “Truly fabulous spectacle plays with surface not for the sake of entertainment, but as allegory…” 


LOS ANGELES (June 29, 2021) — From Aug. 26 to 28, 2021, Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT), CalArts’ center for contemporary arts in downtown Los Angeles, proudly presents the Los Angeles premiere of Acephalous Monster from influential performance artist and provocateur Ron Athey.

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. 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.

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. 

Gifts of the Spirit: Prophecy, Automatism and Discernment is Athey’s vision for an automatic writing machine brought to life in collaboration with composer and opera director Sean Griffin. Athey has been writing Gifts of the Spirit since 1980 when he moved away from the Pentecostal and Spiritualist practices in which he was raised. These writings describe his experience of growing up as a “living saint” within an environment of abuse, vibrating with the energy of the otherworldly and doing so without faith. 

Currently Athey is presenting 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.

Ron Athey: Acephalous Monster

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

$25 for General admission
$20 for REDCAT members and students
$13 for CalArts students, faculty and staff

Tickets can be purchased at:

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