Ron Athey

Acephalous Monster

Presented by Word of Warning in association with NIAMOS + STUN

In Brief

A radical ritual for resistance. A provocation for where we are now.

Read interviews on Athey’s practice in Document Journal, ThisWeek London + Velvet Blog Office. And now that it’s over, read reviews by Live Art Alive + The COMMON.

Venue + Booking Details

Date: Wednesday 23 October 2019, 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm)
Venue: NIAMOS, corner of Chichester Rd/Warwick St, Hulme, Manchester M15 5EU
Tickets: pick† your price (£5/£10/£15) and pay online in advance (sold-out, see note above), a limited number of tickets will be available for purchase on the door at 7pm.
We’d be grateful for as much as you can afford (NB all seats are unreserved, so ticket prices do not reflect viewing positions).
Enquiries: 07488 308 111 (on the night) / 0161 232 6086 (during weekday office hours)

Access Information

Age Limit: strictly for those aged 18+
Warning: includes nudity, blood-letting, BDSM + graphic sexual content. An intense viewing experience for some, we recommend those of a more sensitive disposition read the specific content warnings and use discretion before buying tickets.

Duration: approximately 1 hour (no interval).
Features: spoken English, movement, projected film, amplified sound.
Please note: part of NIAMOS’ charm is breathing life back into the faded grandeur of a gently decaying old theatre, but all that atmosphere comes at a cost (it’s a big old unheated building) so please WRAP UP WARM + WEAR LAYERS.
Specific age + access info: please get in touch with us by emailing or call 0161 232 6086 during weekday office hours.


Inspired in part by the secret society of Acéphale — the 1930s anti-fascist review and magazine published by philosopher Georges Bataille — Ron Athey attempts to make sense of a current reality where neo-fascism is mutating, creeping, and marching.

Turning to the Acéphale — the eponymous figure of the headless man and powerful symbol of radical transformation — Athey’s new work uses projections, readings, lectures, appropriated text, and sound…

…in some ways, this headless warrior is a perfect metaphor for Trump’s America?

Making full use of his pioneering S&M practice, and by re-imagining cut-up technique pioneer Brion Gysin’s brutalist Pistol Poem as a vocal/percussive choreography, Athey presents “a political satire of sorts” in this radically transformative ritual for resistance.

Who is he?

An iconic figure in contemporary art and performance, American artist Ron Athey has been pursuing the transcendent and sublime through performance for more than three decades. Best known for his boundary-pushing body mutilations, Athey’s earliest performances were in LA’s early 80s underground music scene. During the 90s he rose to international prominence making work that explored challenging subjects like the relationships between desire, sexuality and traumatic experience, and confronted conservative narratives around AIDS, S&M, and body autonomy.

Expanding into solo performances, collaborations, experimental theatre, and opera projects, his work invents new forms of ritual and celebration — conjuring the sacred as an antidote to the empty individualism of contemporary life, and pushing towards the merging of humans and gods.

Often questioning the limits of artistic practice, Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performances of Ron Athey (published 2013) delves into his frequently bloody portrayals of life, death, crisis, and fortitude in the time of AIDS.

What people have said about Acephalous Monster

Athey depicts a world of art challenging normality and conformity and quite deliberately uses fairly shocking methods to reinforce this challenge.
★★★★★ Norwich Eye
…rich, multi-layered …a seismic sensory overload, leaving the audience punch-drunk.
★★★★★ The List
…a delirious five-part multimedia performance, equal parts operatic and punk rock, and littered with citations from other artists including Georges Bataille, Genesis P-Orridge and Brion Gysin. magazine
Fun isn’t the word I’d use to describe the work. In fact, fun is about as far from the experience as you can get. That’s not to say the piece lacks color, attitude, or wit. It has all of those…
The Dance Enthusiast


Concept + Performer: Ron Athey | Art Direction, Character Design: Hermes Pittakos | UK Tour Producer: Steve Goatman | UK Tour Production Manager: Andy Winmill | Wigs: Christian Warren Landon, aka The Wig Daddy | Costume Support: Cherry Vintage NYC, Stacy Ellen Rich, House of Malakai | Videographer: Graham Kolbeins, Assistant: Liam Hayes | Supertitle + Scrolling Text Design: Jeremy Carne / Ouroboros Studio | Sound Design: Sean Griffin
Appropriated Texts from Georges Bataille + Genesis P-Orridge.
Pistol Poem inspired from Brion Gysin’s 1960 recording.
Special thanks to Karen Lofgren, Lee Adams, Lois Keidan, Darryl Carlton, Carmina Escobar, Michele Occelli, Grigoris Myriotis, Betalevel, Civic Center Studios, RIP Nacho Nava.
Commissioned by Performance Space New York, with subsequent funding from Art Matters, California Community Foundation + Artadia.
Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
Image: Rachel Papo

Thanks to Manchester International Festival for production support in Manchester.


@Ron_Athey_2 | Ron Athey on facebook | Ron Athey on wikipedia | UK tour dates

Performance Programme Autumn/Winter 2019

Sat 21 Sep, 12noon-10pm. PWYD | Hulme
Emergency 2019
Wed 2 Oct, 8pm. PWYD | The Lowry
Wed 23 Oct, 7.30pm (doors 7pm). £5/10/15 | NIAMOS
Acephalous Monster
Wed 6 Nov, 8pm. PWYD | The Lowry
I Promise You That Tonight
(PWYD indicates you Pay What You Decide)