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Circles of Fire — The Amphitheatre (Prelude) premieres in Fully Sick

FULLY SICK: November 1 – November 24

13-17 riley st,
woolloomooloo nsw 2011
+61 2 8970 2999
opening hours:
wednesday – sunday, 12 – 6pm
Curated by Okapi Neon and Willurai Kirkbright
Featuring work by John A Douglas, Natalie Aylward, Jesse Rye, Grant Gronewold, Steph Tsimbourlas, Sissi Reagan, Okapi Neon and Willurai Kirkbright.

Fully Sick is a group exhibition showcasing the work of artists living with chronic illness, pain and disability. These artists  pull back the hospital curtain to reveal their intimate and vulnerable lived experiences and complex relationships to their bodies, their identities and the outside world. Through this exhibition we are forging visibility and a platform for experiences that are often silenced. Resisting a capitalist paradigm of productivity and worth, these artists seek to thrive in a world built against their survival. Capacity and the tender process of art making are often at odds with the ability to ‘succeed’ in the competitive art world. Many of the artists and the discussions will look at the intersectionality of multiple marginalised identities and disability and accessibility advocacy. There is a diverse range of artists in this exhibition and Aboriginal representation has been extremely important. Aboriginal people live with the highest mortality rate in this country and face racism and stigma in the medical system on multiple devastating levels. LGBTIQ people who live with sickness also face multiple layers of discrimination.

For more information please visit the website: First Draft – Fully Sick


About Circles of Fire — The Amphitheatre (prelude)

two channel synchronised 4K – 1080p video with sound and paper masking tape, 2017

This work  takes as it’s departure point the locations from the 1987 film Belly of an Architect and Susan Sontag’s text Illness as Metaphor. Douglas uses these ancient ruined sites to perform himself as the medicalised body in relation to and within the architectural forms of ancient ruins and Anatomical theatres. Douglas attempts to articulate the impossibility of  representation (in both image and text) of the subjective internal surgically altered body by performing the medicalised body as spectacle. The work also draws connections between the architectural forms of the ancient Roman ampitheatre and the structure of anatomical theatres and later adopted by early surgical operatating theatres. Historically these sites were places for a performative revealing of the internal workings of the body and later surgical procedures as public spectacle.

Like Circles of Fire (variations), The Ampitheatre seeks to reveal the private struggle when oscilatting between wellness/fitness, illness and near death and the daily realisation that illness and death may come at anytime. Douglas’s costuming and performance also draws upon the engravings of the anatomical ecorches as seen in Vesalius’s de humani corporis fabrica. The costume traces (using red velvet ribbon and fabric) his own vascular system  showing the arterial connections between the transplanted kidney and the heart transforming his body into a camp 21st century anatomical transplant sporting figure. The actions he performs are an interpretation of the ongoing day to day battles he overcomes  caused by toxic imuno-suppressant drugs endured by himself and many other transplant recipients often requiring hospitalisation. Physical exercise is part of the rigorous program of  compliance (along with a regime of medications)  that transplant patients, indeed many patients, must conform to to maintain fitness and preparedness for the next bout of illness. In the final section of the work we see Douglas emerge from the ruined castle and perform a “victory lap” in an ancient Roman ampitheater located in the Abruzzi mountains of Italy and finaly returning back to wellness signified by a pastoral field of flowers.


Thanks to: Melanie Ryan, Michele Elliot, The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret , London, UK, Villa Adriana-Polo Museale del Lazio, Rome, Italy,  Tieranatomisches Theatre – Kulturetechnik, Berlin, Germany, The Capitoline Museums, Rome, Italy.

This project is supported by the NSW Government through Create NSW.


This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.