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People > Notable Kytherians > John Conomos

People > Notable Kytherians

submitted by Peter Bouras on 05.10.2005

John Conomos

Visual Artist

, from the Arts in Australia, website:

John Conomos is a media artist, critic and writer who explores the formal collisions of old and new media. Reflected in his practice over the past 20 years is a fascination with the idea of cinema, video and new media as a form of writing.

Conomos' work is a collaborative synthesis between video, new media, media theory, performance, installation and photography, presented in a broad context of the literary, visual and cinematic arts. Conomos' art and theoretical work has reached a wide orbit of local and international audiences in galleries, festivals, conferences and journals.

For Conomos, cinema, video and new media represent a cross-disciplinary mode of 'image-sound writing' evident in the films of Jean Cocteau, Jean-Luc Godard, Chris Marker and Orson Welles. This essayistic, postmodern form is anchored in Alexandre Astruc's 'writerly' camera-stylo tradition of personal cinema and entails image-making that is uncertain of its own authority, that stops and starts in an intermittent narrative fashion and weaves a hybrid form of audiovisual writing.

Conomos received a New Media Arts Board Fellowship in 1999 and developed two major projects during this time, Aura and Cyborg Ned. The Fellowship period allowed him to further develop the new media direction in his artwork that takes the form of electronic biography.

Aura (2002) is a meditative landscape video installation that scopes the technologically sublime in contemporary art and culture. In this work, images of landscapes contrast with images of launching rockets, whirling planets and starry skies against a stirring soundtrack composed by Robert Lloyd. The work draws upon the ideas of Jean-Francois Lyotard concerning the sublime as the 'unpresentable' in avant-garde art and landscape, and from recent debates about techno-culture and its emerging anti-sublime digital representations.

Conomos' work is an expression of Raymond Bellour's unspeakable 'in-between' concepts- forms, gestures and spaces that emanate via the computer, traversing the camera-based artforms of cinema, photography and video.

Says Conomos, 'As an artist and theorist, I am by necessity a "rhizomatic go-between"... located in a nomadic, paradoxical space- between culture and system- who shuttles between cinema, literature, new media and the visual arts, creating at the edge and in the midst of things, and suspicious of mono-cultural thinking'.

Conomos is interested in exploring new media in terms of the impossibility of digital autobiography. His work considers post-colonial dislocation, cultural mistranslation and transmigratory spaces. He investigates a post-colonial subjectivity forged by exile, longing and restlessness and regards image-making as a fugitive, elliptical enterprise in which one is constantly checking one's cultural and epistemological baggage.

Cyborg Ned (2003) a collaborative digital sculpture that directly reworks Nam June Paik's famous TV Buddha. The underlying thematic core of the piece is the poetic potency of Ned Kelly in the Australian popular imagination. Conomos' cultural and formal take on the Ned Kelly myth is of the first surreal cyborg located in the Australian bush. 'He stands in his cyborgian frame as a silent eyewitness to his own mythic narrative as an expression of the romantic outlaw hero', says Conomos.

Conomos' earlier work Autumn song (1998) is an 'auto-biofictional' video and suite of digital stills that evokes themes of conflict and bi-cultural memory. The fragmented and poetic narrative of the work articulates childhood memories of the Greek-Australian milk bar run by Conomos' father and is contrasted with footage of the artist performing on the rocky landscape of the Greek island Kythera, his spiritual home. Conomos maps out a symbolic space where an ambiguous post-colonial identity is articulated.

Autumn song has been exhibited in Australia and internationally, including at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (1996). It received an honourable merit award at Berlin's Transmediale Videofest in 1998 and was exhibited at ZKM's International Award for Video Art (Germany, 1998) and screened on German television.

During 1999, Conomos produced a video-photo-neon installation Album leaves for the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

For over 25 years, Conomos has contributed prolifically to film, art and media journals, books and catalogues, both in Australia and overseas. He was a co-founding editor of the arts journal Scan+. In 1995 Conomos spoke on interactive art at Sydney's Biennale of Ideas Symposium. He was a new media critic for The Sydney Morning Herald in the 1990s, and in 1999 was appointed the Sydney editor for the London-based journal Contemporary. In 2001, with Brad Buckley, Conomos co-edited the anthology Republics of ideas (Artspace/Pluto Press).

Conomos lectures in film and media studies at the Sydney College of the Arts, The University of Sydney. His work has been exhibited throughout Australia and internationally in England, Germany, France, Italy, Switzerland, USA, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Canada and New Zealand. He has curated new media exhibitions and programs for international exhibition in the UK, Greece, Switzerland, Peru and New Zealand.

Selected videography

Museum of fire (with Chris Caines and David Haines), 1991

White light (with David Haines), 1991

Night sky, 1995

Slow burn, 1996

Autumn song, 1998

Album leaves, 1999

Radiophonic works

Smoke in the woods, 1998

Cinema of solitude (with Robert Lloyd), 2001

New works

Aura, 2003
Cyborg Ned, 2003

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