Hallelujah! Ron Athey: A Story of Deliverance

A 1998 documentary by Catherine Gund Saalfield about Ron Athey, the HIV-positive performance artist who won notoriety a few years ago by hanging bloody paper towels over his audience (there was no dripping and no risk). The film?s performances include body piercings, enemas, dildos, and more, but Athey isn?t merely out to shock; raised to be a minister by a Pentecostal family, he gives his performances a ritual quality, aspiring to what he calls a kind of “alchemy” in which needles and body parts and fluids stand for other things—among them Christ's crucifixion and Athey's former drug addiction. The shadow of AIDS hovers over all, as if these extreme acts allow Athey to control the havoc it wreaks on the body. Unfortunately the performance footage can't give much sense of the effect Athey's work likely has when seen live.

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