Martin O’Brien

Zombie Time

Infection, Incubation and Transmission:
Legacies of the Unwell in Live Art 

Images: Martin O’Brien, An Ambulance to the Future  (The Second Chance), 2023. Photo by Zack Mennell.

Martin’s work has been shown throughout the UK; Europe; USA; and Canada, and is well known for his solo performances and collaborations with the legendary LA artist and dominatrix Sheree Rose. His most recent works were at Tate Britain in 2020, and the ICA (London) in 2021. He is winner of the Philip Leverhulme Prize for Visual and Performing Arts 2022. He is writer in residence at Whitechapel Gallery throughout 2023. Martin has cystic fibrosis and all of his work and writing draws upon this experience. In 2018, the book ‘Survival of the Sickest: The Art of Martin O’Brien’ was published by Live Art Development Agency. His work has been featured on BBC radio and Sky Arts television. He is currently senior lecturer in Live Art at Queen Mary University of London.

This page contains documentation of Martin O’Brien’s recent work, to give a sense of what Zombie Time ~ Infection, Incubation and Transmission: Legacies of the Unwell in Live Art (2024/25) will look and feel like.

Further Info

Content note: the performance contains nudity, footage of scrotal piercing, discussion of sex and death, and spanking.

An Ambulance to the Future (The Second Chance)

This work will be shown at the Southbank Centre in September 2024, as part of Unlimited Festival.

Commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery. Funded and supported by Arts Council England, the Leverhulme Trust and Queen Mary University of London. Produced by FUTURERITUAL.

Martin is known for his long form performances which approach the thresholds of pain, endurance and duration - acts characterised by their intesity and wit.

Overture for the End (An Ashen Place)
, Whitechapel Gallery, 2023. Photos by Fenia Kotsopoulou.

Curated by  Martin and hosted by kink and fetish clubs in London, DISCHARGE was a notorious performance art event dedicated to presenting difficult, radical and marginalised performance work. DISCHARGE embraced the endless possibilities of the performance space for aesthetic, physical, and political art and experimentation. At the culmination of Martin’s year-long project ‘Deathly Durations’, we re-activated DISCHARGE with a day of talks and an evening of performances and sonic activations at Ugly Duck.

Images of Electric Adam, Anne Bean and Ansuman Biswas, and Ash McNaughton. DISCHARGE, Ugly Duck, March 2024. Photos by Manuel Vason.

Martin has worked as a lecturer and teacher for many years, most recently at Queen Mary University of London, where he is a Senior Lecturer in performance. In collaboration with Future Ritual, Martin also hosts regular artist development and engagment workshops. Most recently we created ‘The Last Breath Society’, exploring how engaging with the key methodologies of Martin’s practice (time, image making, writing and site) could support bereaved LGBTQ people in processing their experiences.

“The process helped me to explore my sense of grief from different perspective and that helped me to find new ideas. Also I always felt very safe so I wasn't scare to be vulnerable and experiment”

“I really admired how much the process, and people participating in it, 'went there'. The sense of committment was brilliant, and to an extent it didn't matter that much what we were doing, as one of the things I'm most into is being in spaces where I feel there's a full lean in. I think Martin and Joseph really created an atmosphere where people could do that. “

“I found the sense of communitas in the group to be very strong, I felt love for the rest of the group, and I felt pure support and acceptance to be super weird and dark without risk of shame or judgement.”

Images of participants Elizabeth, Cass and Claud, during the final session of ‘The Last Breath Society’. Photos by Marco Berard. Quotes by participants (not necessarily those pictured.)

Future Ritual: Land, Art, Faith, Performance CIC

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