Artist Statement and Biography
“I am a hybrid denatured human – a bi-product of the corporate matrix of bio-medical industries. My death has been postponed until further notice.”
The reality of living with a hybrid body and the resulting disrupted sense of identity presents a challenging and complex set of circumstances for Douglas and many other transplant patients. Lifelong compliance to a rigorous program of medications, diet and fitness is essential for maintaining the health of the transplanted organ.
Paradoxically, the immuno-suppressant medications needed for the patient to live and for the transplant to succeed are fraught with potentially serious side effects that can prove fatal. Moreover, the transplant recipient has been surgically altered with the DNA and living tissue of an unknown person, fracturing and altering sense of self. The body, as a product of 21st century bio-medical technology, no longer wholly belongs to the self; it has become a post- human body that lives in a state of deferred death.
John A Douglas is an interdisciplinary artist working across video, performance, live art installation, photomedia, VR, animation, sound and objects. Since 2011, his practice has investigated his ongoing experience of chronic illness through scientific and collaborative, immersive performance approaches.
Douglas offers a unique and personal perspective as both artist and patient that intersects with biomedical science, clinical treatment and the human and emotional experience of a renal transplant patient. Douglas’ work seeks to map a psychological geography of the patient-subject as a parallel world of existence in which he cycles between places of healing, regimentation, wellness and suffering.
His video and live performances often pay homage to, and reference, cinematic scenes and mythologies. They act as loose structural narratives or templates that articulate the inner world of the lived patient experience, transforming these banal and often uncomfortable experiences into a moving and poetic vision of performative actions. These performative actions are shot on location in remote and sublime landscapes, ancient ruins and some of the world’s earliest anatomical theatres that resonate with the lived experiences of medical interventions, near death, illness, recovery and healing. Douglas’ multi channel video works augmented by live performance, incorporate other performers, 3D and 2D animation, VR, microscopy and original soundtrack compositions.
Ultimately, the work makes visible the often hidden and unspoken world of the chronically ill and provides a space for audiences to reflect on their own encounters with chronic illness.
Douglas has completed several major interdisciplinary experimental projects. In 2013, he performed a live durational performance whilst connected to a peritoneal dialysis machine for ISEA13 and a four channel installation at Performance Space, Carriageworks assisted by an Australia Council AIR grant. It drew an audience of 8-10 thousand people & was shown on ABC television’s 7:30. Douglas produced two commercial exhibitions for Chalk Horse gallery in Sydney and works were acquired by private collectors and Artbank with further exhibitions at MARS gallery Melbourne, Hazelhurst Regional, and at FICEA video art festival in Spain.
Douglas received a transplant in April 2014. While recovering from surgery he and producer/curator Bec Dean put together a team of local and international artists and was awarded a Creative Australia Development grant. He completed two residencies at SymbioticaLab, research at Concordia University Montreal and a studio collaboration at ANU. In 2016, a 2 channel video work titled Circles of Fire (variations), commissioned for the exhibition The Patient, was exhibited at UNSW Galleries and toured regionally. CoF(variations) was also acquired and exhibited by Artbank. Douglas is the recipient of the inaugural 2017 CreateNSW Artist With Disability Fellowship for skills development and several Australia Council Grants that have enabled the research,development,production and presentation of several projects of my lived experience of chronic illness and organ transplantation.
He recently premiered the multi platform project Circles of Fire: The Amphitheatre in Performance Space’s Liveworks 2018 Festival at Carriageworks in Sydney. Circles of Fire (variations) and the Cannulation Sequence performance from The Amphitheatre will be exhibited and presented at the new Science Gallery London in the Spare Parts exhibition opening in February 2019.
John has an extensive practice as an arts worker and consultant in videography, lighting, editing, photography and sound specialising in working with Australian contemporary artists. He has over fifteen years experience working in the regional arts sector, galleries and arts organisations.
John A Douglas identifies as an artist with non-visable disabilty and is a descendant of the Walbanga people of the Yuin Nation.
John A Douglas
Sydney, Australia, b. 1960
Master of Fine Arts by Research, University of NSW, College of Fine Arts, School of Media Arts
Bachelor of Fine Arts — Hons (First Class), University of NSW, College of Fine Arts, School of Media Arts
Selected Solo Exhibitions
The Nine Circles, Chalk Horse, Darlinghurst, NSW
The Visceral Garden — Landscape & Specimen, MARS Gallery, Windsor, VIC
Body Fluid — The Seven Cycles (edit), Odradekaeaf, AEAF, Adelaide, SA
The Visceral Garden — Landscape & Specimen , Chalk Horse, Darlinghurst, NSW
Body Fluid II (Redux) & The Visceral Garden, Performance Space, Carriageworks, Eveleigh NSW.
Shown as part of the ISEA13 (International Symposium on Electronic Art) festival
Body Fluid — The Seven Cycles, Chalk Horse, Surry Hills NSW.
Blood of Arachne, FreeFall , The Cube, Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst, NSW.
Strange Land Vol I & Crash Landing, Wallflower Photomedia Gallery, Mildura, VIC.
Strange Land Vol I, The Substation, Newport, VIC
Body Fluid I (After NJP), FreeFall live art program, Oxford Art Factory, Darlinghurst, NSW.
Body Fluid II, Performance Space, CarriageWorks, Eveleigh, NSW.
Strange Land Vol I, Penrith Regional & Lewer’s Bequest, Emu Plains NSW.
Strange Land Vol. I (De-fragmentation), featuring Sari TM Kivinen, & Liam Benson, Chalk Horse, Sydney NSW
Screen Test (Australiana/Americana) — Fragments & Stills, Chalk Horse, Sydney NSW.
Screen Test (Americana/Australiana), Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Paddington NSW
Screen Test (Australiana) — James Dean Jesus, Chalk Horse, Surry Hills, NSW.
Screen Test (Australiana ) — Suicidal Synthesis, Westspace, Melbourne VIC
Screen Test (Australiana) — Suicidal Synthesis, First Draft, Surry Hills,NSW
Screen Test #3 (Americana), Kings ARI, Melbourne, VIC
Screen Test #3 (Americana) — The War Room, Blank Space, Surry Hills, NSW
Screen Idol (Americana), Artbox, Sherman Galleries, Paddington, NSW
Selected Festivals & Group Exhibitions
Known|Unknown, The Lock-Up Gallery, Newcastle, NSW
Spare Parts: Rethinking Human Repair, Science Gallery London, UK
Liveworks Festival 2018, Performance Space, Carriageworks, Eveleigh, NSW
The Blake Prize, Casula Powerhouse, Casula, NSW
Justice IN Justice, The Lock-Up Gallery, Newcastle, NSW
The Patient:The Medical Subject in Contemporary Art, Ridoch Art Gallery, Mount Gambier, SA
Fully Sick, First Draft Gallery, Woolloomoloo, NSW
Good Neighbours, Artbank Gallery, Alexandria, NSW
The Patient:The Medical Subject in Contemporary Art, Manning Regional Gallery, Taree, NSW
Cementa_17 Arts Festival, Kandos, NSW
The Patient: The Medical Subject in Contemporary Art, Galleries UNSW, COFA, Paddington, NSW
FICEA 2, International Festival of Contemporary Art, IVAM, Valencia, Spain
In Motion, Airspace, Marrickville, NSW
Conquest of Space, Galleries UNSW, Paddington, NSW
MAP Exhibition # 2,Cave House, Woodford, NSW
Touring Blake 2013, Blake Prize Touring Exhibition, Various locations NSW, VIC, TAS
Sydney Contemporary International Art Fair, Chalk Horse, Carriageworks, Eveleigh, NSW
Home and Hosed, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, Gymea, NSW.
Cementa_13, Contemporary Arts Festival, Kandos, NSW.
Sense of Place, M & G NSW, dLux Media Arts, (national and ongoing)
Miami Scope, Chalk Horse, Florida, USA.
Melbourne International Art Fair, Chalk Horse, Carlton Gardens VIC.
Placeness, Directors’ Lounge, Berlin, Germany
The Rest is Silence, Death Be Kind, Brunswick VIC.
Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted, Chalk Horse, Surry Hills NSW.
Short Sharp Shocks, Australian Video Art Now, Barbican, London, UK.
New Ideas, Government House, Commissioned by Historic Houses Trust NSW.
Nighttime Statewide: Everyday Hero, Performance Space, Carriage Works and NSW Regional Galleries Touring Exhibition.
Reality Check, Hazlehurst Regional Art Gallery NSW,
Australia?Mildura Arts Centre, Regional Art Gallery, Mildura VIC
Selected Prizes, Awards & Residencies
CreateNSW, 360VR Grant, 2019
PerformanceCity of Sydney, Creative Sydney, Projects Grant, 2018
Performance Space, Artist in Residence, IO Myer Centre, UNSW, 2018
The Lock-Up, Newcastle, Artist in Residence, 2018
CreateNSW, Artist with Disability Fellowship, 2017
Cementa17 inc, Kandos, NSW, Artist in Residence, 2016
Bundanon Trust, Illaroo, Artist in Residence, NSW, 2016
Symbiotica Lab, UWA, Crawley, WA, Artist in Residence, 2016
Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Projects For Individuals and Groups Grant, 2015
Concordia University, Beaux Arts, Hexagram, Montreal, Quebec, Visiting Artist, 2015
Symbiotica Lab, UWA, Crawley,WA, Artist in Residence, 2015
Australia Council for the Arts, Creative Australia, Creative Development Grant, 2014
Finalist, Josephine Ulrick Photography Prize, 2014
Finalist, Fishers Ghost Prize, 2013
Finalist and touring artist, The Blake Prize, 2013
Finalist, John Fries Viscopy Prize, 2013
Museum of Human Disease, Inaugural Artist in Residence, School of Medical Science, UNSW, 2012 – 2013
Performance Space, Offsite Artist in Residence, IO Myer Centre, UNSW , 2012
Australia Council for the Arts, Inter Arts AIR Grant, 2012
Fraser Street Studios, Artist in Residence, Chippendale, NSW, 2011
Australia Council for the Arts, New Work Grant Emerging, 2008
Finalist,2008 William and Winifred Bowness Photography Prize.
Australian Post Graduate Award (APA), 2004-2006
Finalist, Helen Lempriere 2006 Travelling Art Scholarship
Finalist, Citigroup Photographic Portrait Prize 2005, AGNSW
Winner, COFA Art and Design Award, 2005
Finalist, Helen Lempriere 2004 Travelling Art Scholarship
Feature Articles, Exhibition Reviews & Interviews
Jeffries, Stuart, Rodent leather and designer kidneys: art in the age of bio-revolution, The Guardian, UK edition, 20:03:2019
Gallasch, Keith, Liveworks 2018, Art testing, Realtime, 14:11:2018
Performance Space, Spotlight on John A Douglas, Liveworks artist 2018, www.performance space.com.au
McGowan, ‘This must not be forgotten’: the artists painting a picture of Australian injustice, The Guardian, 28:03:2018
Preston, Sammy, What Next?, The Australian Art Collector, Issue 82, October 2017
Dean, Bec, The Art of Dis-Ease, Artlink, Issue 37.3, September 2017 p 37
Dean, Bec, ‘The Patient: The Medical Subject in Contemporary Art’, pp 32-35, 2016
Conquest of Space — Art and Science Fiction, ABC TV, Aired November 2014.
Dean, Bec, ‘Underworlds’, The Visceral Garden — Landscape & Specimen catalogue, Chalk Horse, February 2014
Mudie-Cunningham, Daniel, John A Douglas: Body Fluid II (Redux), Artlink, Volume 33 No 3, 2013, p94
Baillie, Rebecca, Kidney Patient Turns Heads, ABC TV 7:30, http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2013/s3796290.htm, 2013
Pynor Helen, Fluid Threats, Notes on the work of John A Douglas, Body Fluid II (Redux) Program Guide, Performance Space. 2014.
Artbank 20/20 video series,’Claudia Karvan — Body Fluid’, Dir. Vera Hong, 2013
Frost Andrew, The Art Life Podcast S2 Ep4, http://theartlife.com.au/category/media/podcasts-media/, Dec 11 2012.
Miller, Carrie, Body Fluid -The Seven Cycles, http://theartlife.com.au/2012/body-fluid-the-seven-cycles/, Nov 23, 2012
O’Donnell, Ryan P, Body Fluid -The Seven Cycles, Exhibition Catalogue Essay, 2012.
Miller, Carrie, Cool Hunter Predictions, The Australian Art Collector, issue 59 Jan- March 2012, pp 124 -125, 2012
Mudie, Ella, Performance Art: Going Beyond, Realtime 106, December 2011/Jan, 2012, p44.
Muldoon, Eliza, Arts Interview: John A Douglas, http://artsinterview.com/, 2010
Mudie Cunningham, Daniel, Ghosts Undermine: Strange Land Vol 1, Runway Issue 17, Nov 2010, pp 16-21.
Frost, Andrew, Ten Rising Visonaries, Metro Art Cover Story, Sydney Morning Herald, October 8 -14, 2010, p4.
Frost, Andrew, The Ghost of the Town, Metro Art, Sydney Morning Herald, September 17 -23, 2010, p14.
Watts, Oliver, Strange Land Vol I, exhibition catalogue essay, 2010
Stanton,Elizabeth,Back to Reality, Art Monthly Australia, #228, April 2010.
Artscape: Sylvania Waters Project, ABC Television, Dir. Daniel Marsden, Broadcast Oct 2009 ABC 1, Nov 2009 ABC2
Cunningham, Daniel Mudie, Reality Check: Watching Sylvania Waters, Hazelhurst Regional catalogue, 2009, pp. 14, 22-29.
Dean, Bec, The Edge of Reality, Realtime 93, October 2009, http://www.realtimearts.net/article/93/9620
Frost, Andrew, Westworld (Interview), The Art Life, 13 May 2008 http://artlife.blogspot.com/2008/05/westworld.html
Farkas, Solange Oliveira, Panoramas of the Imagination, Videobrasil 16 Limite Festival and Exhibition Catalogue, p149.
Lee, Brendan, More Video Art Please, Artlink Vol.27 N.3, September 2007, pp 28–29
Watts, Oliver, Approaching Intimacy — contemporary miniatures, 1/2 Dozen 2006 Catalogue, pp 9–14
Frost, Andrew et al, Beard Club For Men, The Art Life, 21 Sept 2006, http://artlife.blogspot.com/2006/09/beard-club-for-men.html
Frost, Andrew, No Fighting In The War Room, The Art Life, 8 Sept 2005, http://artlife.blogspot.com/2005/09/no-fighting-in-war-room.html
Public and Private Collections
Cambelltown Regional Arts Collection
Artbank Collection, NSW
Cato Council, NSW
Dlux Media Arts, NSW
Museums & Galleries, NSW
Australian Video Art Archive Collection, Monash University, Faculty of Art and Design, VIC.