juliana snapper


The Judas Cradle (2004—2008)

The Judas Cradle, one of the most provocative pieces of live art ever staged, was conceived, directed and performed by Juliana Snapper and Ron Athey.

Allowing for a “rupture of the habitus”, the experience began in 2004 (Cetrone Studio, Los Angeles, CA, USA; REDCAT/Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA, USA; PERFORMA 05 at Participant Inc., New York City, NY, USA, etc.).

Audio excerpts from The Judas Cradle

Listen to excerpts from The Judas Cradle performances by Juliana Snapper and Ron Athey:

2005 Fierce! Festival poster: Juliana Snapper & Ron Athey.

Among other places (Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec, CA, Aksioma Festival, Ljubljana, Slovenia …), the work was notably performed in Birmingham, England, as part of the international 2005 Fierce! Festival.

Video excerpts from The Judas Cradle

◼ Behind the scenes

The Judas Cradle, an interactive DVD film directed by Lisa Cazzato-Vieyra and Manuel Vason (2006), goes behind the scenes of The Judas Cradle 2005 Fierce! Festival performance. Watch excerpts from this documentary:

Judas Cradle Film (2006), ft. Ron Athey & Juliana Snapper (excerpts)
◼ Singing upside down
Juliana Snapper singing upside down in The Judas Cradle (2005)

 We had a hell of a time trying to get my voice to break down under stress. We had me folding over jungle gym bars and contorting every which way before discovering that hanging upside down, with a slight arch to the back, will undo the vocal mechanism over the course of several minutes. ”
“ I like struggling with a mastery that is no longer fully relevant (bel canto) and having to transform it into something else again and again. (…) Singing upside down was emotionally taxing. Maybe because your heart and head fill with blood, or for the way that failure happens gradually.
  (Juliana Snapper’s verbatim)

Rupturing the Habitus?

Prof. Amelia Jones reflects on radical performance art that thrives on the repetition of rigid rules of habit, inscribed on highly trained bodies, like opera. The Judas Craddle —“its relentless and savagely violent and beautiful dehabituations of the bodies”, as she elaborates— strives precisely to engage with these “habituated” art forms by repeating them with… “savage difference”:

 Performance artist Ron Athey and opera singer Juliana Snapper violently dehabituate the sexually and occupationally normative body. (…) Snapper deliberately dehabituates her opera-trained body by hanging upside down on a rack. Her diaphragm pushing downward into her lungs, her voice becomes strangled. She suffers a kind of martyrdom to her body, which drips downward like the flayed flesh of Marsyas. Gulping and howling like a strangled dog, she articulates a human pain that is at once both ‘universal’ (in that everyone can and probably has felt it) and of the utmost social and political and embodied specificity (each experience of it is unique and unextrapolable).

Estranged from its training, Snapper’s opera body is made deliberately wrong and calls forth my inexorable sense of absolute wrongness (something I experience multifold a million times a day in the aches and pains of a stress-wracked body that dehabituates itself, over and over again, from the vicissitudes of everyday life).

This example suggests that the format and contexts of performance art (for surely, Snapper would not dehabituate her body in such a way in an opera!) can alllow for a rupture of the habitus that binds us to normativity while also making expertise possible. (…)

And yet Athey’s extreme actions and Snapper’s distorted opera body suggest that the context of performance art offers possible ways of refusing what Bourdieu called our expected ‘conditions of existence’, through embracing the missed timing of ‘dispositions ill-adjusted’ to existing bodily forms and existing environments (…). Breaking habits may be one of the most interesting ways to misbehave, producing potentially new modes of embodiment that - at least momentarily - escape the constrictions of the habitus. 

Excerpts from “The Voice of Death, Rupturing the Habitus”,
Amelia Jones & Marin Blažević, Performance Research,
Volume 19, 13 Aug 2014 - Issue 3

Read more about The Judas Cradle’s experience and concept

Photo snapshots of The Judas Cradle performances

Juliana Snapper & Ron Athey performing The Judas Cradle