Collection Title: Franklin Furnace: performance and politics collection
Title: Ron Athey four scenes in a harsh life
Alternate Title: Four scenes in a harsh life
Date: 1994
Location: Filmed in 1994 at the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.
Work Type: Performance., Performance art., Body art., Ritual performance.
Performers: Ron Athey, Divinity P. Fudge (Darryl Carlton), Julie Tolentino, and Pig Pen (Stosh Fila).
Run-time (hh:mm:ss): 00:51:45
Language: In English.
Synopsis: Ron Athey’s Four Scenes in a Harsh Life (1994) confronts the sexual politics of religiosity. Expressed through ritualistic acts, Athey and his fellow performers, Divinity P. Fudge, Julie Tolentino, and Pig Pen, use the body as a site to queer religious iconography and to reconstitute a politic that affirms the queer body amid the AIDS crisis and culture wars in the United States. Heightened by national homophobia and conservative agendas, Athey, who is HIV-positive, was falsely accused by the Minneapolis Star and other media outlets for exposing the audience to AIDS-tainted blood, when in fact the blood central to the performance was from performer Divinity P. Fudge, who is HIV-negative. The polemic of blood in the performance ignited discrimination and censorship of Athey’s work across art venues and by the National Endowment for the Arts. Athey was also attacked by the religious right for employing a queer lens to examine religion, gender, and sexuality. Through the performance, Athey and company manifest a stigmata of the queer body that sparked national debates on censoring and exhibiting sexually explicit art. Following the mass censorship of Athey’s work in the the art world, video documentation of Four Scenes in a Harsh Life was broadcast online as part of Franklin Furnace’s “History of the Future” (1999) netcast on Pseudo Programs, Inc.’s The Performance Channel ( [link now (2018) defunct].Ron Athey is a London-based performance artist from Los Angeles. He has performed body and sound-based works since 1981, debuting with Premature Ejaculation (PE), a collaboration with Rozz Williams. In the height of the AIDS pandemic, Ron Athey and Company toured “The Torture Trilogy” (1992-1995) at art venues across the world. Athey began his solo career with “Solar Anus” (1998) and later with “Self Obliteration” (2007-2012), while simultaneously developing “Incorruptible Flesh” (1997-2008). He has collaborated with Lawrence Steger on “Incorruptible Flesh (In Progress)” (1996), Juliana Snapper on “The Judas Cradle” (2004), and Julie Tolentino on company works throughout the 90s and “The Sky Remains the Same” (2008-). A monograph of Athey’s work, Pleading in the Blood, edited by Dominic Johnson, was published by Intellect Ltd. in 2013.
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Copyright Holder: Ron Athey
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