Writer in Residence 2023
Martin O’Brien

An Eternity of Nothingness or The (Im)possibility of Living On

Martin’s work is continually exploring the politics of illness, death, and the undead. For this residency, Martin will work through writing and performance to consider ideas of immortality. He is interested in the ways in which writing and actions towards immortality might help to articulate something about death. Through his writings and performances during the residency, Martin will explore spirits, ghosts, afterlives, undead creatures, cryonic preservation, rebirth, new lives, transformations and other fictional and imagined possibilities for immortality. Over the year, Martin will create a collection of works in different mediums: performances, videos, short stories. The residency will involve three live events and three published texts. Together they will make up a series that playfully ask questions about the potential for immortality, and imagine a future without an eternity of nothingness.

Martin O’Brien is an artist and zombie. He works across performance, writing and video art. His work uses long durational actions, short speculative texts and critical rants, and performance processes in order to explore death and dying, what it means to be born with a life shortening disease, and the philosophical implications of living longer than expected. He has shown work 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. He was artist in residence at ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives (Los Angeles) in 2015. 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 will be 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 received a PhD from the University of Reading in 2014. He is currently senior lecturer in Live Art at Queen Mary University of London.

Image: Martin O’Brien ‘Until the Last Breath is Breathed’ video installation still, 2017 

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Martin O'Brien Q&A

Curator: Public Programmes, Jane Scarth interviews Martin O'Brien about his work and plans for the residency.


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An Ambulance to the Future (The Second Chance)

Mixing video, live performance action and parables, this performance imagines a world in which immortality is possible.


Overture For The End (An Ashen Place)

This performance transforms the gallery into a place of decay, part hellscape, part apocalyptic landscape, filled with strange bodies performing deathly actions.

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Fading Out of Dead Air (Transmissions for the Necropolis)

A durational installation drawing inspiration from hospital radio and stories of ghosts heard through analogue technologies.



A Study in the Land of Greyness and Solitude

The first in a new series of texts by Martin O’Brien.


Death Prayers

The second in a new series of texts by Martin O’Brien.



The third and final in a new series of texts by Martin O’Brien.