John A Douglas—What Next

Why pay attention?

Interdisciplinary artist John A Douglas has entered into a new and exciting chapter of his practice. He’s just been awarded the inaugural Create NSW Artists with Disability Fellowship, and for Douglas – what began as an artistic exploration into, and meditation on, the throws of his own devastating chronic illness, has become a complex flight into the realm of life and death, science, medicine, humanity, and history.

What do they do?

Douglas’ powerful 2011 and 2012 live performance pieces Body Fluid I (After NJP) and Body Fluid II (Redux) were a groundbreaking dive into Douglas’ grueling lived experience of life support. The 10-hour durational performance set traced his monotonous plug in and plug out daily dialysis, but dressed the medical process in a sort of science fiction narrative, inspired by Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth.

Now, following the ordeal of kidney transplant surgery, Douglas is mining his nightmarish experience in a similar cinematic fashion, drawing in and collaborating across disciplines: performance, costume and textile design, sound composition, and light.

What’s it about?

The Circles of Fire series charts Douglas’ mid-surgery near death experience. Mythology and cinema become a part of the narrative – Dante’s Inferno is a loose structural template for the nine video loops in Circles of Fire (Variations). Desolate sequences were shot on location in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan and Spotted Lake in Canada, to track the dark transition between near death and healing.

The artist says…

“These works are about my own inner world – the emotional, psychological landscape. Because what do you do? I could have got someone to shoot my surgery – but I guess I didn’t want it to be too literal.”

You can see it at…

A solo exhibition titled The Nine Circles will be at Chalk Horse gallery in Sydney from November 30 – December 23, 2017.

This piece first appeared in Art Collector magazine, issue 82, October—December 2017. 

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