Currently reading : Ron Athey on Sebastiane

Ron Athey on Sebastiane

20 April 2015

Author : reba

Ron Athey performing at TG for the first time in 1994. Photo Jeremy Chaplin
Ron Athey performing at TG for the first time in 1994. Photo Jeremy Chaplin

Ron Athey will be performing his iconic Sebastian presentation on Thursday night at The Coronet in London. After living here for six years he is about to return to his native Los Angeles. It’s an evening not to be missed, – this legendary performance has never actually been performed in the UK and it will take place under the guidance of Torture Garden. All of the costume’s have been created by Alexandra Groover except for the infamous Leigh Bowery coat in the possession of Athey. So to celebrate this important date we’ve spoke to Ron to find out more about this seminal piece of work.


For anyone who doesn’t know about your work, could you explain what Sebastiane is?

Sebastiane is my 5th performance using the martyrdom of St. Sebastiane as the premise for an action. From 1991 to the present time. The original inspiration was a hallucination triggered by the Mishima photographs from the 60s

The performance of Sebastiane at the Coronet Theatre is a group evening I’ve curated around the Sebastiane presentation, performed with Sage Charles, Jon John, and special guest from Glasgow: Russell MacEwan of Black Sun Drum Corps. We’ll be performing again Friday night in Rome at the Giacomo Guidi Arte Contemporanea Bunker of Arts.

The sound is entirely percussion and one section of a call’and’respond with ecstatic vocals. The performance starts as a procession, continues on stage, and ends as a reliquary production line.

Could you explain what Body Probe is?

Body Probe was started by Torture Garden in the 90s, as a way of showcasing new work including extreme bodywork and performances of a sexual nature, in an evening of performance. The performances within the large fetish club party are interesting, but more of an intervention, people want to dance and play. So they started with suspensions and neo circus. The one I did with Empress Stah and Hannah Sim from osseous labyrint, was in 2000! and the last body probe was in 2007, when Fakir Musafar last visited london with a week of workshops and performances.

How important is creating documentation to your performances to you?

It mediates the images from the performance. I think right now I’m once again bored of straight documentation. I’m interested in an interpretative video edit of the entire eve (with SUKA OFF and Ernesto Tomasini’s collaboration with Jose Macabra and Gunther Iscariot). And to produce a small number of Sebastiane Chapbooks which would include writing.

How do you feel the reaction to your work has changed since you first started performing this particular piece? (i.e different audiences, reactions to this particular act etc etc…)

The polemic is way different, we all dealt with the sick and dying and dead in 1991. I think sometimes the image is over-used, but i love the lineage of Mishima, Mohammad Ali, Derek Jarman, David Wojnarowicz. I was included in a brilliant show at the Kunsthalle Wien called Sebastian: A Splendid Readiness for Death, such a brilliant title and amazing show.

How physically demanding is this performance? Is there any preparation that you have to undertake prior to performing?

For the disfigured genitals look, I infuse a litre of IV saline solution into my scrotum and cock, such as the look in this catherine opie polaroid. It doesn’t hurt but it takes almost 48 hours to go back down to normal. Some people think this prosthetic blubber! Otherwise the prep is just before and the arrows are done in performance buy Jon John.


How do you think the performance/fetish scene compare in Los Angeles to London?

Ooh, LA is more fickle! Mind I havent lived there in 6 years, but the scene I came out of, club fuck, lasted 3 years in perfection. Moved location and had another life of sorts for another 2 or 3. And had a spinoff, Sin-a-matic, which went on forever in a bigger venue, so more was possible budget-wise, but then the crowd was mixed, which at first was manageable. London is FAITHFUL to the TG and FIST/Hardon scene into perpetuity! Performance has become another beast, I’m interested in seeing performances that don’t come from the academic institutions.

What will you be working on in Los Angeles?

More voice, more sound with soprano/musicologist Juliana Snapper.

More immersive desert workshops for artists. Scouting and looking for money. The last ”” which I co-facilitated with artist and dancer Julie Tolentino, was with a stellar group of participants who included Londoners Lee Adams, Manuel Vason and the Empress Stah, and closer to home Aliza Shvarts, Zachary Drucker, Heather Cassils, Tania Hamidi.

Definitely interested in producing events, at such spaces as LA Chinatown’s Human Resources, or venues that Nacho Nava of Mustache Mondays fame is unveiling. ;)

You can buy tickets for Thursday night here

Thursday 23rd April
@ The Coronet – Main Theatre Arena Only

7.30pm – 11.30pm

RON ATHEY presents his seminal a

nd legendary performance Sebastiane for the first time in the UK.
with Ron Athey, Jon John and Sage Charles
SUKA OFF (Poland)
present DIE PUPPE
inspired by the work of Hans Bellmer, just after the 40th anniversary of his death, who happened to be born in their hometown of Katowice Poland
Counter-tenor voice in a dark ambient/noise operetta
LEE ADAMS – DJ (Kaos/Gegen)
playing experimental sounds throughout

Advance Tickets £20


Poster from 90s performance


The first Sebastian for the martyrs and saints program 1992 by Elyse Regehr
The first Sebastian for the martyrs and saints program 1992 by Elyse Regehr

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