Circles of Fire | The Amphitheatre
Circles of Fire: The Amphitheatre
“Inspired by the artist’s experience of a life-saving kidney transplant, this visually rich four-part work explores the transformative experience of chronic illness, treatment and recovery. Combining John A Douglas’ signature science fiction-inspired imagery with stunning footage of landscapes and ancient architecture around the world Circles of Fire: The Amphitheatre brings together video installation, virtual reality, medical procedures and live performance to invite us inside Douglas’ physical experience.”
Circles of Fire: The Amphitheatre premiered at Performance Space, Liveworks Festival in October 2018 at Carriageworks, Eveleigh, in Sydney, Australia. The project is the final iteration in the Circles of Fire series of works and the last of the trilogy of projects beginning with Body Fluid in 2011. For the Liveworks Festival, The Amphitheatre was installed as a large scale, multi-purpose installation space presented for over ten hours per day in four parts.
NB: Full versions of the video documentation are available for viewing via a private link by request.
I. The Absent Body
An immersive three channel video soundscape installation with all the objects left in situ for the live performances.
II. Virtual Body
A full VR installation using the latest HTC /VIVE wireless headset and camera tracking system taking participants into a 3D reconstruction of four locations in the Amphitheatre video. The audience are invited to immerse themselves into these architectural structures and landscapes and become performers in the space along with a reconstructed 3D animation of the artist in costume.Participants can walk around and fall into reconstructions of the the gas cratert in the Karakum Desert, fly over The Spotted Lake, in Canada be transported to an Anatomical Theatre in Berlin and arrive at an ancient Roman Amphitheatre in Italy.
An immersive durational live performance installation in collaboration with co-performer Stella Topaz. This piece was made in response to hospitalisations Douglas underwent post-transplant, caused by immuno-suppressant medications. Douglas performs in a hospital bed while undertaking cannulation through an intravenous drip (a medical procedure commonly used when transplant patients present at casualty with a complication). This performance installation ponders the experience of medical intervention in the artist’s daily life and meditates on the complications of living with a hybrid body. We are invited inside Douglas’ physical and emotional journey of these often banal, time consuming and uncomfortable experiences, transforming them into a moving and poetic vision of performative actions.The performance also posits the medicalised body of the patient as a theatrical spectacle referencing the spectacles of surgery and dissection in anatomical theatres.
Audience members are invited to have their vital signs taken and recorded by Stella Topaz who will also be on screen performing scar remediation therapy on Douglas’ torso and scar tissue augmented by images of sublime landscapes, ruins and an ambient soundscape by Justin Ashworth. The work may also be seen as a response to the recent ethical concerns regarding the access of the Australian government’s online database of patient’s health records. Two of these performances at Liveworks featured solo live music interventions Tina Havelock Stevens and Justin Ashworth. Full video documentation of the cannulation sequence featuring artist Tina Havelock Stevens is available by request.
This final act is a dialogue between body and screen. John A Douglas performs a physical score that reveals the resilience and fragility of the medical patient. Set to a soundtrack by Justin Ashworth, this final performance traces the full narrative arc of Douglas daily transplant experience. The main performance distills a near death experience from when the artist presented at casualty suffering from a norovirus infection, into an intense thirty-minute physical performance within a multi channel video and interpretive soundtrack of ancient ruins and landscapes. It begins with the sudden onset of the viral infection, a battle to overcome death, stabilisation, healing and finally emerging to run a triumphant victory lap. It also highlights the requirement for the transplant patient to maintain a regime of physical fitness in order to survive. The performance is divided into the following movements/chapters:
I. Nausea — Falling. V. Intervention (i) Stabilised – Shifting the Virus
II. Vomitorium — The virus takes hold. VI. Intervention (ii) Restoration – Healing the body.
III. L’Eclisse – The passing of Death. VII. Descend into the World – Hospital discharge.
IV. Casualty Battlements – Fighting the illness. VIII. The Victory Lap – Fitness regime.
Principle Artist: John A Douglas Producer: Bec Dean Performer: John A Douglas Soundtrack Composition: Justin Ashworth Performance Director: Sue Healey Lighting Design: Fausto Brusamolino Stage Design: Alejandro Rolandi & John A Douglas Stage and Ariel Rigging Consultants: Alejandro Rolandi & Lee-Anne Litton Set Construction: Josh Harle Rigger: Bernard Bru Costume Dresser: Melanie Ryan Production Manager: Tim Lathouris Video Production and Post Production: John A Douglas 3D Animation: Josh Harle Video Performance: John A Douglas Special On-Location Assistant and Carer: Melanie Ryan Aerial Cinematographer: Shawn Talbott, Rubicon Cinema, BC, Canada Costumes: Michele Elliot LED Costume: Alejandro Rolandi Chroma Key Lighting: John A Douglas, Mark Mitchell Video Documentation Cinematography: Gotaro Uematsu & Steven Alyian Video Documentation Post-Production: John A Douglas The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of: Performance Space, Sydney, Australia. School of Media Arts, Creative Practice Lab, UNSW, Kensington, Australia. Special Thanks To: First Nation Okanagan custodian of Spotted Lake(Kliluk), Alex Louis (Senklip Skalwx) of the Osoyoos Indian band for permission to shoot at Spotted Lake, BC, Canada. Artem Gubaev for clearance and transport in Turkmenistan. Musseo Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy. Kunst Kamera Museum, St Petersberg, Russia. Gareth Miles at The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret Museum, London, UK. Villa Adriana-Polo Museale del Lazio, Roma. Jan-Peter E.R. Sonntag at Tieranatomisches Theatre – Kulturetechnik, Berlin, Germany. and the Capitoline Museums, Rome. Jeff Khan, Tulleah Pearce and the staff at Performance Space, Sydney,Australia. Shoufay Derz, Artist, Sydney, Helen Pynor, University of London, United Kingdom Kate Scardifield, University of Technology, Sydney Symbiotica Lab, UWA, Perth, Australia The artist would like to acknowledge the following First Nations people on whose land this work was made: The Skylx people of the Osoyoos Indian Band, Okanagan Country (BC, Canada), The Yuat people of the Nyoongar Nation (WA, Australia), The Gadigal and Kaymegal People of the Eora and Coastal Dharug Nations (NSW, Australia) The Turkmeni Tekke of the Ahal and Balkan regions of Turkmenistan
Producer: Bec Dean Performers: John A Douglas & Stella Topaz Drums: Tina Havelock Stevens Ambient Soundtrack Composition: Justin Ashworth Lighting Design: Fausto Brusamolino Glass Objects: Nadege Desgenetez Costumes: Michele Elliot & Yiorgos Zafiriou Stage Design: Alejandro Rolandi & John A Douglas Set Construction: Josh Harle Costume Dresser: Melanie Ryan Production Manager: Tim Lathouris Video Production and Post Production: John A Douglas Live Sound Recordist and Mixer: Richard Whitehouse Video on Location production Consultant in Turkmenistan: Shoufay Derz Special On-Location Assistant and Carer: Melanie Ryan Aerial Cinematographer: Shawn Talbott, Rubicon Cinema, BC, Canada Video Documentation Cinematography: Gotaro Uematsu & Steven Alyian Video and Sound Documentation Post-Production: John A Douglas
The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of: Performance Space, The School of Art, Australian National University.
Special Thanks To: First Nation Okanagan custodian of Spotted Lake(Kliluk), Alex Louis (Senklip Skalwx) of the Osoyoos Indian band for permission to shoot at Spotted Lake, BC, Canada. Artem Gubaev for clearance and transport in Turkmenistan. Jeff Khan, Tulleah Pearce and the staff and volunteers at Performance Space, Sydney, Australia
The artist would like to acknowledge the following First Nations people on whose land this work was made: The Skylx people of the Osoyoos Indian Band, Okanagan Country (BC, Canada), The Yuat people of the Nyoongar Nation (WA, Australia), The Gadigal and Kaymegal People of the Eora and Coastal Dharug Nations (NSW, Australia) The Turkmeni Tekke of the Ahal and Balkan regions of Turkmenistan Virtual Reality
VR Development and Design: Josh Harle, Tactical Space Studios Photogrammetry and Visual Content: Josh Harle and John A Douglas Excerpts from Circles of Fire (variations) Soundtrack : Justin Ashworth Original Costume Designs: Michele Elliot Intern: Cosmo Porter Installation: Josh Harle Production Manager: Tim Lathouris Lighting Design: Fausto Brusamolino Stage Design: Alejandro Rolandi & John A Douglas Producer: Bec Dean Video Documentation: Gotaro Uematsu Video Documentation Post-Production: John A Douglas.
The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of Performance Space, Sydney, Australia.
Jeff Khan, Tulleah Pearce and the staff and volunteers at Performance Space, Sydney, Australia