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Performer Bios

Ron Athey

London, UK/ Los Angeles, USA

Ron Athey is an iconic figure in contemporary art and performance. In his frequently bloody portrayals of life, death, crisis, and fortitude in the time of AIDS, Athey calls into question the limits of artistic practice. These limits enable Athey to explore key themes including gender, sexuality, radical sex, queer activism, postpunk and industrial culture, tattooing and body modification, ritual, and religion. He began performing at underground galleries with Rozz Williams in 1981, in a collaboration known as PrematureEjaculation. In 1992 he began staging what was to become a performance “torture” trilogy: Martyrs & Saints, 4 Scenes In A Harsh Life, and Deliverance. Subsequent works in the new millennium include Judas Cradle, Self-Obliteration, and Gifts of the Spirit:Automatic Writing in which he explores his Pentacostal upbringing and the creation of an ecstatic experience. Additionally, Athey works in visual arts, journalism, and in 2013 celebrated the release of the first publication dedicated to his life and work: "Pleading in the Blood: The Art and Performance of Ron Athey", edited by Dominic Johnson.

“Ron Athey forces the body to transcend it’s confines. His brilliance manifests as exorcism not only of, and for, the cauterizing of his own pain, but by pushing the boundaries of endurance through artistic expression, he shares his compassionate epiphany: We all need to break free from the shackles placed upon the individual by society, family, religion and gender. And possibly through the catharsis of performance, and ritual, we might finally be able to lay to rest the demons who’ve sent us in search of the respite only a knife or needle could at one time provide.”
- Lydia Lunch

Jess Dobkin

Toronto, Canada

I approach performance art as an inherently subversive practice. My performances challenge the status quo, transgress boundaries and envision alternate realities. The intimacy and immediacy of live performance lets me guide the audience on a journey through real space and time to examine things differently than they ever have.

My body is my primary tool in my practice, and my work explores its physical and psychic abilities, limitations, and attributes. Using personal narrative as my starting point, I pull from my own experiences of love, work, parenthood, politics and sex for material.

I use playful humour as a strategy to establish a sense of comfort and safety for an audience so that we can broach challenging subject matter, such as queer sexuality, sexual violence and mortality. I have always carried a sense of heightened urgency in the creation and production process, and in my most recent projects, this urgency has become a central theme in my work.

Jess Dobkin’s work is presented at museums, galleries, theatres, universities and in public spaces internationally. Her performances receive extensive media attention including articles in Gastronomica, The Canadian Theatre Review and n.paradoxa. She was named “Best Performance Artist” by NOW Toronto and X-tra Magazine, and her “Lactation Station Breast Milk Bar” performance continues to draw international attention and interest. She was the 2011-2012 Guest Curator of Harbourfront Centre’s HATCH residency program and a member/co-curator of the 7a-11d International Festival of Performance Art from 2009-2012. She has taught as a Sessional Instructor at OCAD University and the University of Toronto and is a Fellow at the Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies at the University of Toronto. Jess has presented as a Visiting Artist at numerous universities including Yale University, Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, Brown University, Swarthmore College, McGill University, RISD, University of Michigan, and Goldsmiths University of London. Her artistic and curatorial projects have received support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the Toronto Arts Council, the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art and the Astraea Foundation.

Kris Grey

New York, USA

Kris Grey/Justin Credible is a New York City based gender-queer artist whose work exists at the intersection of communication, activism, community building, storytelling, lecture, and studio production. Their practice interrogates systems of power through the lens of gender. Grey uses their body as a raw material and have acted upon it to craft a queer form that defies binary categorization. Their work exposes the permeability of the borders between male and female. They place themselves in states of extreme vulnerability to counter systemic and physical violence and to connect their body to intergenerational trauma. They see performance as a means to make visible that which usually remains shadowed, to challenge power dynamics between surveyor and surveyed, and to produce new models of being and doing gender in the world. By disrupting the power structures around gendered embodiment they demonstrate how other systems of power can also be challenged.

Grey earned a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Maryland Institute College of Art and a Masters Degree in Fine Art from Ohio University. They perform, teach, and exhibit work internationally. Grey was a 2012 Fire Island Artist Residency recipient, the resident artist for the 2012 ANTI Festival for Contemporary Art in Kupoio, Finland, and a teaching artist in 2013 at The International Centre for Training in the Performing Arts in Brussels, Belgium.

Homo Monstrous

Regina, Canada

Formed in 2011 by Jaye Kovach and Leo Keiser, Homo Monstrous is Regina's only queercore fantasy band and performance art collective. They released their debut EP, Nothing Without My Scars, in October of 2013 and are in the process of recording a follow-up full length for release in April 2015. They completed their first tour in August of 2014 and are planning to hit the road again in July 2015. www.homomonstrous.com

Anya Liftig

New York, USA

I identify as a transpecies artist and I am currently in the process of transitioning from human to canine with the help of my rescue dog, Sugihara. I try, with increasing difficulty, to insert myself into the natural and manmade world. I want to break though the boundaries of solitude and subjectivity with my body. Each project begins with an attempt to do something fearful, something that terrifies me. I use humour to explore the subconscious and I believe that performance is a form of psychological research. Often I repeat actions in order to try to push harder and harder past the point of my own comfort. I want the viewer to also challenge their assumptions about what is comfortable, what is right, and what is supposed to make sense. I use repetition of simple actions to highlight the poetry of the unfolding of time and the absurdity of the action itself. These actions mostly originate from desires I had as a child, but could not be expressed until now. My artistic process has involved a constant peeling back or formality, a reversion to some more primitive version of the self. These pieces are about the ongoing struggle to connect with people, places and things, and the correlating difficulty of making sense of the world. My work is preoccupied with the need to communicate with other living beings and the frequent failure of that endeavor.

A graduate of Yale University and Georgia State University, Anya Liftig’s work has been featured at TATE Modern, MOMA, The New Stedelijk Museum, Fado Toronto, 7a11d International Performance Festival, Performance Art Institute-San Francisco, The Kitchen at the Independent Art Fair, and many other venues around the globe. In "The Anxiety of Influence" she dressed exactly like Marina Abramovic and sat across from her all day during "The Artist is Present" exhibition.

She is the recipient of a 2014-2015 Franklin Furnace Award for a series of interventions in museums throughout New York mimicking the gestures of animals depicted in Old Master paintings and sculptures.

Martin O’Brien

London, UK

Martin's work considers existence with a severe chronic illness within our contemporary situation. Martin suffers from cystic fibrosis and his practice uses physical endurance, hardship and pain based practices to challenge common representations of illness and examine what it means to be born with a life threatening disease. His work is an act of resistance to illness, an attempt at claiming agency and a celebration of his body. Martin loves his body and his work is a form of sufferance in order to survive.

Martin has been commissioned and funded by the Live Art Development Agency, Arts Council England and the British Council. He has presented work in Britain and abroad including SPILL Festival of Performance (London), Chelsea Theatre, Kapelica Gallery (Ljubljana), In Between Time Festival of Performance (Bristol), Chapter Arts Centre (Cardiff), Grace Exhibition Space (New York), Gallery Art Claims Impulse (Berlin), Edinburgh Festival, The Basement (Brighton), LAX Studio (Los Angeles). He was artist in residence at ]performance s p a c e[, London from January-June 2012 and has often collaborated with the legendary performance artist Sheree Rose. He curated the ground breaking symposium ‘Illness and the Enduring Body’ in 2012. Martin is currently in the final stages of completing an AHRC funded PhD at the University of Reading and his work has received critical acclaim and academic attention in publications such as Contemporary Theatre Review and the book: ‘Access All Areas: Live Art and Disability’. He is co-editing, with Gianna Bouchard, a new edition of the journal Performance Research ‘On MedicineS’ and is a visiting lecturer at several UK Universities.

Writer in Residence Bio


Toronto, Canada

Jon Davies is a Montreal-born, Toronto-based curator and writer. He has written for publications such as C Magazine, Canadian Art, Cinema Scope, Criticism, Fillip, GLQ, Little Joe, No More Potlucks and Randy. In 2009 he wrote a book on Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey's film Trash for the Queer Film Classics series. His curated exhibitions include Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever (2010, co-curator) and Coming After (2011–12) for The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, where he was Assistant Curator, and the touring retrospective People Like Us: The Gossip of Colin Campbell (2008–2012) and Depth of Perception (2015) for Oakville Galleries, where he is currently Associate Curator.

Davies’ writing on Performatorium will appear in an upcoming issue of C Magazine - an international art quarterly devoted to critical debate about visual art and culture.