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Queen Mary, University of London

JOHN, Jon (1983-2017)


Reference code(s): GB 0370 JJ

Held at: Queen Mary, University of London

Title: JOHN, Jon (1983-2017)

Date(s): 2010-2017

Level of description: Collection (fonds)

Extent: 10 boxes and 2 oversize items

Name of creator(s): John | Jon | 1983-2017 | performance artist


Administrative/Biographical history:

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.


Scope and content/abstract:

Material relating to the work of performance artist, tattooist and piercer, Jon John. Primarily comprises of artefacts in the form of clothing, props and artwork used in or generated by his performance pieces, with photographs and some contextual information such as sketches.

Contains material relating to the following performance events: - Love to Love (2010) - The Limit to Your Love (2011) - ErosThanatos (2011) - You Never Love Only Once (2011) - Kataragama (2013) - For You to Stare at Your Own Blood (2013) - The 2 of Us - work in progress (2013) - The 2 of Us (2014), including two oversized blood on canvas/silk artworks - Love on Me - work in progress (2016) - Love on Me (2017) - Mole performance (2017) - Unrealized Performances (2013-2017)

Also contains material from: - Photoshoots (2011-2017) - "St. Sebastian" merchandise - shirt (2017)


Language/scripts of material: English

System of arrangement:


Conditions governing access:

The Archives are available for access in the Archives Reading Room located on the 2nd Floor of the Mile End Library. The Archives Reading Room is open Mondays to Fridays 9am-4pm by appointment only. Contact the Archives for more information: Archives, Main Library QMUL, 328 Mile End Rd, London E1 4NS, telephone: 020 7882 3873, email: For more information about the Archives see the website: Additional access restrictions will apply to material relating to the Mole performances. Please contact the Archives for a detailed list of the contents and to make arrangements for access.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Applications for copies for research or publication should be made to the Archivist: Main Library QMUL, 328 Mile End Rd, London E1 4NS, telephone: 020 7882 7873, email:

Physical characteristics:

Primarily clothing, performance art props and photographs.

Finding aids:

Detailed list available.

Detailed catalogue


Archival history:

The majority of Jon John's papers were transferred to the ownership of friend and collaborator Paul King following John's death in April 2017. A selection of three pieces from John's papers were loaned by King to performer Ron Athey to inform a touring piece, and it is anticipated by King that these may rejoin the bulk of John's papers following the conclusion of that tour. Likewise, there is a collection of digital images and videos, which are currently with King, which are likely to form an addition to the collection in the future.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The physical items, excepting those loaned to Athey and personal items retained by King, were deposited as a gift with Queen Mary University of London Archives on 31st August 2018.



Date(s) of descriptions: 2018

Performing arts

Personal names
John | Jon | 1983-2017 | performance artist

Corporate names