Cool hunter predictions: John A Douglas - Art Collector

Issue 59, January - March 2012

This profile appeared in the Cool hunter predictions feature, part of the annual special issue 50 Things Collectors Need to Know 2012.

In his masterpiece The Shining, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick sent out a team of photographers to document thousands of hotel room interiors which he then used as reference for the bedrooms in the film. It’s a film artist John A Douglas has seen hundreds of times.

Like Kubrick, one of his major influences, Douglas brings an obsessive attention to detail to his own practice. At a time when you can shoot a 30-second clip on your mobile phone and turn it into an artwork, it’s this rigorously researched approach to staging the performances captured in his film and photographic works that distinguishes Douglas from many other new media artists.

It’s work that fuses the aesthetics of cinema and figurative landscape photography with a conceptual desire to lay bare the way in which history is not merely a set of facts but is always open to contestation. Douglas achieves this by merging real and imagined histories in his documented performances – surreal combinations of film narratives, historical events, urban myths and his own experience. The results are spellbinding images that are at once familiar and at the same time strange and profoundly unsettling.

Until recently, his work examined the nature of masculinity and the relationship of identity to place, particularly as these are represented in 1970s Australian cinema. In the past year, however, Douglas expanded his practice to include a mesmerising live art event which incorporated his cinematic practice – screens showing the artist as an alien in a gold suit wandering the Australian landscape – with an endurance performance, a 10-hour public performance where the artist, entombed in a sense-depriving, gold suit, performed kidney dialysis on himself (something he endures on a daily basis) while carrying out a series of choreographed moves that appeared to sync with the three films projected behind him.

Regardless of what he does, the rare combination of a fierce intelligence, an encyclopaedic knowledge of his subject, and a singular commitment to art making, will always make Douglas’s work compelling viewing.

Carrie Miller

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