To Live and Art In Los Angeles

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To Live and Art In Los Angeles

Hold onto your hats, ladies and germs for a night of radical performance art. This video features art stars Ron Athey, and Julie Tolentino's co-curated, "You Belong to Me: Art and the Ethics of Presence," in a night of durational queer performance. Watch Athey perform his ground-breaking "Self-Obliteration Solo #1: Ecstatic", and Tolentino's "Cry of Love," alongside, interviews with professor Jennifer Doyle and asst. gallery director Shane Shukis to help us understand just what radical performance art is.

Post and Video by Tania Hammidi, a performance artist, freelance writer, and doctorate student of Dance History at the University of California, Riverside.

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Comments [27]

alex's picture

weeks after this discussion,

weeks after this discussion, i just came across it and just have to post SOMETHING.

for starters, an anecdote:
a friend of mine saw ron's performance here in berlin in january (i couldn't, because i was out of town) and she was utterly devastated, not at how someone would insert his fist/hand into his anus on a stage, but "at" or from actually witnessing it. same thing with self-obliteration #1. being a theater artist herself, her sheer state of uncomprehending shock made me realize once more:

queer performance art is so f****** important.

we easily take queer ideas or the basic questioning reflection of certain concepts/things/actions in this world for granted - while there are people among the spectators that might be taken to (one of) their limits by just watching something some consider weird/boring/ridiculous (the pearls) when regarded solely on grounds of "what happens here" in the art box. regarded also/instead as an ACTION by a (whatsoever) queer person IN THIS WORLD, however - it gains a completely different relevance.

Lake's picture


UUUUUUUUUUUUMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM......kinda speechless and scared!!! Wink

Definitely not ever going to look at a strand of pearls the same again....I'm just saying.....Wink


DeLand DeLakes's picture

Are lawyers elitist because

Are lawyers elitist because they exercise a complex knowledge of the law? Would you hold it against your doctor or consider her "snobby" because her command of medical terminology exceeds your own? And why should artists be criticized for having, and applying knowledge of their own field?
What I am seeing in this thread is a general resistance and even offense towards any type of art that requires more than three seconds to penetrate the brain. A punch in the stomach makes you "feel" something; the notion that the only function art serves is to provoke base emotional reactions is infantilizing and ridiculously limiting. Moreover, it would not matter so much that some of you evidently do not care to delve more deeply into what these performances have to offer, if you did not reserve the right to be grievously offended by the fact that the artists are offering up something which you do not "get." These people are not entertainers; it's not their job. Do your own brainwork.
Tania has offered up a great video and a great slice of the spirit of that week. It's a pity that her work efforts should be disregarded simply because she has presented a media segment on this site that has absolutely nothing do do with Eileen Chaiken.

yonks's picture

Thats remind me, i worked in

Thats remind me, i worked in a dance school younger and i'v seen a performance, it was two dancers holding each other as for a Tango, and a third person comes and wrap them with scotch tape, then they was suppose to start dancing and to get ride of the tape in the same time. The problem is they have been wrap too much an too tight so they could not move and they start to panic, so they fall on the ground and fight for their freedom with a high intensity, it was very interesting.

The only thing with artists is that they want to challenge and provoking but they easily get pissed if you challenge and provok them in return. like, they want to punch you in the face all the time but are too over sensitive for your response.
I like art and artists, but i think art must be feed by life and lots of them just hang around other artists, watch art, live in an art world enclosure like a snake who bite his own tail.

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

Robin Rigby's picture

Yeah, way too many art snobs

Yeah, way too many art snobs out there. As I mentioned below, I lived in Providence, RI for 16 years- the home of RISD (top American art school) and had much contact with many different artsy types. Seen lots of crap art too. They all talk in some crazy ass language about how important what they're doing is. I say art makes you feel. Period. What it makes you feel and whether or not others feel the same thing you do is unimportant. I think if you start making art to make people feel or think a certain way, you've failed. You should just make art that moves you and let the rest of the world take it or leave it.

FYI, I'm a filmmaker and I feel the same way about film. Make what moves you and fuck trying to push some agenda (except for documentary film, of course). If people love it, great. If they don't, oh well. My least favorite director I dislike because I feel like he uses his movies to manipulate the viewers' emotions instead of just making a movie that tells a story he wants to tell in the best way he can.

yonks's picture

Well, in fact, i love when

Well, in fact, i love when art make me think and brought me to a path of reflexion, otherwise, i call it entertainment. But i'm with you about manipulate emotion for an agenda, this is like propaganda
Beside, there's always a hidden message. when you don't see or fell it, its the most insidious.

-Do not follow me, I'M LOST-

mysticsmb's picture

Might that director be Oliver

Might that director be Oliver Stone?

Robin Rigby's picture

No. Though I'm not a fan of

No. Though I'm not a fan of his either. Sorry. I won't be saying.

t hammidi's picture

hey yonks and thumper - the

hey yonks and thumper - the high school piece sounds cool. my mentor is from argentina, wrote a book called _the political economy of passion_. anyway, i was just rocking out to the SxSW2009 video and came back to say hi. yes - the art community is snobby. geothe said (i think) 'man cannot live on poetry alone' (ok i may be paraphrasing) and i used to say no way - i can live off of good poetry forever. but it's true, i like the tomatoes in my garden, chilling at farmer's markets and petting the puppies at the shelter stand. it's the State I want to punch -- not, generally, the actual audience who takes the time to come out and engage. imho it is all about finding a language that bridges each side w/out squashing anyone, and (too) lets rest the silences that perhaps can't be spoken, because there is no language ... so keep doing it and walk on by the snobs.

peacekitty's picture

Hey I'm all for the freedom

Hey I'm all for the freedom of expression, especially when it comes to works of art.

Now I'm going to express myself freely and say that picture of the woman/man all oiled up in the tiny piece of cloth is the UGLIEST thing I've ever seen. Ick.

"Fight Prime Time. Read a Book"

LongBeachDogLover's picture


Laughing out loud

Steph H's picture

Hey PK :-) Yeah, I'm with you

Hey PK Smile
Yeah, I'm with you - it's not the most appealing sight is it??
S xoxo

davegs's picture

It's pretty sad to see so

It's pretty sad to see so many young people in a drug rehab program in los angeles from all walks of life including artists that have addictions. The city really needs to do more to clean up its streets.

Tex's picture

Think I would need to see the

Think I would need to see the entire "work of art" before making any kind of comment. I definitely don't understand any of it now.

After reading Ron Athey's diary of last year's PRAXIS Mojave some things I understand are that you need to be in really good shape to perform this art....that this dude has a fixation with the anal cavity....and none of them have a sense of direction.....

Not my kind of 10 day trip,



Twitter Time @kdhales

LongBeachDogLover's picture

Hummmmm....I'm thinkin' that

Hummmmm....I'm thinkin' that the person who shoved 6 feet worth of pearls up this guys ass, may be the real artist in the room. I wonder what happened to the pearls... Laughing out loud

lucia_2008's picture


(O_O) is good!!!

t hammidi's picture

So I was thinking that maybe

So I was thinking that maybe minnesota was saying Dr. Doyle bears a striking resemblance to Jennifer Beals on the episode of the L-Word where Bette defends an exhibit of paintings she is curating from censorship. There may not have been a tie in that episode, but there was some incredible intellect in that piece. Don't you think?

Julia - Riverside too? Mon dieux. You topics of study sound fascinating. Salut!

itty's picture

Why did I look! :roll:

Why did I look!


Julia Watson's picture

Ha! And I was worried that I

Ha! And I was worried that I might be setting a few people's hair on fire this year when I start grad school at UCR? I feel so tame and boring now with my lesbian pirates and subversive, feminist paranormal YA lit...

conlite's picture

Lesbian pirates sounds way

Lesbian pirates sounds way more fun to me! And more understandable. Go ahead, set some hair on fire! (Or is there a performance artist already literally doing this?)

LongBeachDogLover's picture

You lost me at the tattooed

You lost me at the tattooed guy, pulling a 6 foot long string of pearls out of his ass.... I'm a bit more conservative in my art appreciation. You know, flowers and portraits, even an abstract piece, or two...... But, jewelry and blood ? Well, I guess I prefer something I can frame, and hang on my wall. Laughing out loud

What is it that makes this 'queer art'.....what am I not getting.
I'm beginning to believe that I must be the most conservative lesbian in L.A.

Robin Rigby's picture

I'm with ya on this one, Long

I'm with ya on this one, Long Beach. I've been behind and just now watched the video. I first heard of Athey years ago when I was still living in Providence and hanging out with lots of artsy folks. I didn't get performance art then and I don't get it now.

While I'm not much into florals or portraits (except Mapplethorpe's) I also prefer stuff I can hang on my wall. I buy art just because it captures me on some level that I can't place a finger on. I suppose I'm a little traditional. And before Julia points out the Monet print and says I'm super-traditional I'll just say that my first girlfriend ADORED him and bought that for me.

mysticsmb's picture

What is it that makes this

What is it that makes this ‘queer art’…..what am I not getting.

Athey may not be every queer's cup of tea, but his work is far more intellectually rigorous than your average pull-pearls-out-of-your-ass performance artist. His pieces involving blood during the height of AIDS crisis addressed people's fundamental fears about bodily fluids and sex and death in such a viscerally compelling and honest way that he could say more in five minutes about the disease than a library shelf's worth of books written on the subject.

His work is indeed shocking, but it's significant because it does so much more.

t hammidi's picture

Tolentino does a body archive

Tolentino does a body archive of Athey's work in the video above. it's hard to tell from clips. (the close-up photo of her face is a moment of this). it's probably one of the most evocative and committed expressions of queer love continuing the dialogue mysticsmb mentions above today, 20+ years after the 'height' of the AIDS crisis in gay men's communities.

LongBeachDogLover's picture

Oh yeah... I almost forgot,

Oh yeah... I almost forgot, animation art.... I love it.
Now, the Smurfs........... THAT'S totally queer. Smile

t hammidi's picture

yo - feel free to say what

yo - feel free to say what you know. nothing is stupid... it's a complex art form and difficult to write about. but let us have it! thanks for watching, and meet away ...

minniesota's picture

I keep trying to post a

I keep trying to post a comment about this video that I watched earlier this morning but whatever I attempt to write sounds stupid because I admit that I simply don't get much of performance art.

So, I'll just say that I wouldn't mind meeting Professor Jennifer Doyle from UC-Riverside to have a conversation about the ethics of it.

Still searching for the right brainy quote.