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John A Douglas & Stella Topaz Featured in The Big Anxiety Festival 2019 of arts + science + people

Photo: Scar Remediation Ceremony, Promotional Image 2019.


The Empathy Clinic
UNSW Galleries
Thursday October 17 – Saturday October 19 2019
Cnr Greens Road and Oxford Street,
Paddington, NSW 2021

John A Douglas and Stella Topaz will be presenting a new live work for the Big Anxiety Festival 2019 in the Appointment Room(located on the lower ground floor of the gallery) of the The Empathy Clinic at UNSW Galleries from Thursday October 17 – Saturday October 2019. Scar Remediation combined with somatic bodywork is a relatively new therapeutic approach to the treatment of scar tissue that can have positive effects for scars on the skin or within the body. In Scar Remediation Ceremony, performance artist and body worker, Stella Topaz performs a ritualised and stylized interpretation of this treatment on artist/transplant patient John A Douglas. The approach combines mapping (a way of becoming more attuned to the ‘geography’ of the scar) with massage, and gentle heat, to soften and release scar tissue. Transplant patients have reported that the trauma of surgery and frontline immuno-suppressant medications have resulted in a disconnect from the scar tissue area(s) with an altered sense of self and body self-image. In time, a process of healing and integration can be of great comfort and benefit to patients. Stella will guide the audience through each stage of this treatment process and explore the wholistic healing properties of touch. Outside of performance times, the audience are invited to lie on a hospital bed and immerse themselves into the signature architectural structures and landscapes from Douglas’s organ transplant project 360 video version of Circles of Fire – Virtual Body.  John is also an ambassador for The Big Anxiety Festival.

NB: No appointments are necessary however due to the small intimate size of the appointment room there will be a waiting time during busy periods.

THE BIG ANXIETY 2019 – Ambassador Statement

John A Douglas is an organ transplant recipient who identifies as an artist with chronic illness/non-visable disability. Transplant patients may incur a life long range of physical, emotional, mental and cognitive impairments with the risk of contracting serious illnesses and infections. John believes that a connection to a creative community with similar lived experiences including those with mental health issues can improve both quality of life and longevity. The opportunity to connect to a sustained and empathic community can be of great
benefit to the individual and to society as a whole, and welcomes being in the role of 2019 Ambassador.

Performance Schedule

12pm – 2pm Thursday October 17 2019

5pm – 7pm Friday October 18 2019 – In conjunction with Anxiety, Culture and the  Future Conference.

12pm – 2pm Saturday October 19 2019


The Big Anxiety acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live, learn and work. We pay our respects to the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island elders, past and present.