Jon John (1983-2017) was a performance artist and practitioner of body modification.
Born in the French Basque country as Jonathan Arias, Jon John as he was known both personally and professionally, was best known for using his body in situations of ritual suffering, duress, and difficulty in performance. He was also renowned for his piercing and tattoo studio AKA (Berlin and London), his development of techniques for piercing, scarification, and implants, and as a designer of body piercing jewellery.
His performances drew on extensive field research in the Middle East, North Africa, and India, where he investigated folk usages of ritual self-injury as forms of secular as well as religious transcendence. At the end of his life, he was collaborating with the lay anthropologist Paul King on Hearts in Sorrow, a documentary about Shia Islamic rites in Iran. Paying homage to these and other ritual practices, Jon John’s performances also incorporated references to high fashion, pop music, so-called ‘modern primitivism’ and industrial culture, magic, sadomasochism, and sex.
His work was also centrally concerned with his intersectional identity as Gitano (Spanish Romani), Basque, and queer. Including sentimental uses of bloodletting, hook suspensions, dancing on thorns, and DIY surgery, Jon John’s own tattooed, scarred and ‘hacked’ body was central to his work as an artist. His works were known to be arduous to perform, and sometimes gruelling for his audiences to witness, but Jon John professed his own investment in the themes of love, romance, tenderness, loss and grief: in a manifesto, he would describe his art as an ‘action of love’, and an ‘ecstatic’ ritual of ‘communal alchemy’. Key performance included ‘The 2 of Us’, in which a cannula was inserted into the crook of his elbow, allowing him to write in blood until he passed out; and his ‘farewell’ performance ‘Love on Me: The Finest Hour’, performed shortly before his death. Beyond performances, his art works also included video, film, writing, and collodion print photography. He collaborated on projects with international artists, including Ron Athey, Lukas Zpira, Marilyn Manson, Kiril Bikov, Joey Arias, Jochen Kronier, and Nick Knight.
Jon John died of cancer in Bayonne, France, on 6 April 2017
Data extract from archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk/