Incorruptible Flesh: Messianic Remains

Ron Athey, Arches, 11th – 12th November

American body performance artist, Ron Athey has been back in Glasgow this month with the next instalment of his Incorruptible Flesh series, Messianic Remains. The piece was commissioned in June of last year and brings forward many of his ideas from previous performances, such as the icon of the sexualised corpse, and is also highly influenced by Jean Genet’s 1943 novel, ‘Our Lady of the Flowers’.

The performance starts with Athey lying as a corpse and asking the audience to anoint his body with a luminescent gloop. This is a strange experience to say the least and can feel awkward at first. However, as Athey intended, the experience has certain divine implications (“divine” being a word which is used often throughout the piece). It resonates with the idea of receiving communion, giving others space while also all experiencing it as a personal moment. His body does not appear like a real life person but as an object so the whole thing becomes rather more surreal when he starts to move and walk around, the way most normal living bodies would.

The only other people featured in the performance are two servant characters who tend to Athey and together subvert a totemic circle ritual. The servants and the costume that he wears show the influence that Athey gained from Egyptology. It is within this circle that the rest of the performance continues and Genet’s influence shines through. He talks the audience through the funerals of the divine and of outcast queens. This beautiful monologue is layered with his movements, and it is after this that the performance comes to a close. Not with a bang but softly, leaving you looking for more and for explanation of what you have just seen.

The performance is highly intriguing, raveling the audience up in its nuances and intense imagery and explores many ideas that are too deep to condense into only a forty-minute glimpse performance.

[Rachel Pyke]

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