Vaginal Davis and Ron Athey
Vaginal Davis and Ron Athey


This year, the Courtauld Institute of Art played host to talks by three practising artists — Raimund Hoghe, Ron Athey and Vaginal Davis. They were invited to participate in this series organised in association with the Research Forum. Raimund Hoghe is an experimental dance-theatre practitioner, critic and writer, based in Düsseldorf. Hoghe’s work is driven by what he posed to be an absolute necessity: to interrupt the canonical exclusion of different bodies from the traditions of dance and theatre — to claim these spaces anew for atypical bodies. Through his physically intense performances, Ron Athey has permitted himself a consummate knowledge of the ways in which a body can be punctured, forced open, pushed to rapture and on into crisis, and eventually reconciled with itself anew. He elegantly discussed the politics of his work, explained the repercussions of his confrontation with the National Endowment for the Arts in the early 90s, and showed video-documentation of performances. The first lady of punk drag, Vaginal Davis is an originator of the Homo-core movement and an experimental video and art-music icon. Davis has been a prolific producer of club performance, underground newsletters and other forms of subversively low-cost, high-impact work. In presenting their work at the Courtauld Hoghe, Athey and Davis fulfilled a crucial objective of the series, showing work by prolific artists that students might not encounter in their scholarly pursuits. Moreover, the talks acted as an important reminder that academia, museums, galleries and other art institutions often ignore and actively exclude difficult or uncomfortable practices from their horizons of tolerance and value. The series brought in huge audiences, mostly from outside the Courtauld’s student body. First-time visitors from the live art and performance, club and alternative music scenes were given a good opportunity to become acquainted with the Institute and its varied, open-minded and welcoming research profile.

Dominic Johnson
Dominic Johnson is a PhD student in the Modern and Contemporary Section.