(waterpiece): Video Still #1 (waterpiece)

Like an experiment in an underwater dream laboratory, the re-videoed image of Sturgeon’s submerged face looks out; while as investigator, he stops and starts the underwater sequence, measuring the air bubbles surfacing.

Porky_01 Porky

In a brief sudden explosion of inhalations and exhalations – breathing in and out of plastic bag… a sinister, sexually ambiguous masked being erupts with desperate almost dangerous energy.


Gesturing their conversation from behind dark glasses in face-to-face headshots, Sturgeon and Sobel exaggeratedly mimic a computer-synthesized voice track.

Shirt: Video Still #6 Shirt

By repeating a sequence, then working directly on the surface of the monitor with alligator clips, Sturgeon transforms the act of folding a shirt into a painterly field of self-information gathering.

Hands Up: Video Still #1 Hands Up

Conceptually, this is a tape whose imagery unfolds in a series of skits, through a deepening detective-style investigation of the nature of sexuality.

the Two of Triangles: Video Still #1 the Two of Triangles

Steadily grinning from under a straw hat, a beguiling character alternately manipulates the camera position then resituates himself in front of it, creating an uneasy yet humorous mood.

Shapes from the Bone Change: Video Still #1 Shapes from the Bone Change

Sturgeon opens with a series of ritual body gestures, signaling with primal shapes, the square and triangle, as wind sounds whistle.

2 Aspects: Video Still #1 2 Aspects

Using the desert floor like a drawing surface for a diagrammatical enactment of the function of conjunction and opposition, Sturgeon combines a delicate and precise ritualistic structure with the vastness and unpredictability of the windswept landscape.

Conjunct: Video Still #4 Conjunct

This highly edited tape of carefully composed images speaks clearly an inner world language of dream space and alchemical ritual.

Conjunction/Opposition: Performance Still #1 Conjunction / Opposition

A series of four evenings of evolving video performances, with Aysha Quinn, consisting of black/white live & pre-recorded video with sculptural sets, at Site, San Francisco, CA.

As Above, As Below: Installation Photo #1 As Above, As Below

A “performed” video/sculptural installation created for a solo exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art.

Spinning Dream: Performance Still #1 Spinning Dream

A video performance shown at the AND/OR Gallery in Seattle, Washington. The performance consisted of black/white live & pre-recorded video, with a sculptural set and text.

Conjunction/Opposition II: Performance Still #1 Conjunction / Opposition II

A video performance shown at the L.A. Louver Gallery in Venice, CA with accompanying performer, Aysha Quinn.

I Will Take You: Installation Photo #1 I Will Take You

An installation created for the Long Beach Museum of Art, “I Will Take You” features a large black and white video projection of a dark cloaked female circling in the desert.

Of Matter, Of Mind: Video Still #6 Of Matter, Of Mind

Mining subconscious terrain among clay symbols and archetypical beings, a metaphorical archeologist/fisherman plumbs psychic depths for latent clues to a more essential self.

Uroboros: Installation Photo #1 Uroboros

Uroboros revolves around a mandala metaphor, a mythological snake that devours itself, tail first, symbolizing the unity and continuance of opposites.

Atari is the New Parent: Performance Photo #1 Atari is the New Parent

A collaborative, interactive satellite performance with Aysha Quinn & Gary Lloyd, created for the Artist & Television Conference Cablecast, 1982.


SPINE/TIME is a poetic and dramatic work on the transformative process of being.

NoEarth/NoEarthSation: Performance Photo #1 NO EARTH/NO EARTH STATION

A collaborative video/performance originally performed at the 2nd Intermedia Arts Festival Corraboree Theater

Candle Saw: Video #1 candle-saw

The undulating, sweeping dance of the camera (by Dan Reeves) hovers around Sturgeon’s meditative seated figure. Amid a dream-like setting – candle, woodpile and saw – the imagery swirls with the poetic text and ripping sound track.

Fragments - BeetSurgery: Performance Photo #1 FRAGMENTS

“Fragments” was a collaborative performance by Quinn/Sturgeon 1984-87. An hour long variable collection of inter-related performance vignettes, tape sketches, monologues and interactive live computer graphic imagery developed over several years.

the House of Influence: Video Still #1 the HOUSE of INFLUENCE

the HOUSE of INFLUENCE expresses the tension/pressure of an internal dialogue, with poetic asides and the image/acoustic metaphor of relentless water about the artist.

Chariot Chamber: Installation Photo #1 CHARIOT CHAMBER

The translucent wall glows with the rhythmic color sequences, and moves in response to air currents. Monitors and muted neon provide all light for the installation…

Melting Pot: Video Still #1 Melting Pot

Melting Pot is a video that presents a collage of complex images and sounds to depict the complex fabric of its subject.

Inside Out: Video Still #1 Inside Out

Inside Out utilizes camera generated imagery, digitally processed material, computer graphics and animation to investigate the internal sense of the boundaries of self.

Falling Moor: Performance Photo #1 Falling Moor

Falling Moor was one of several works Sturgeon executed as part of Symposium Moor 1992, an international festival of performance & site-specific work on the Wittemoor.

Symposium Moor 1992

Symposium Moor 1992 was an International Festival of performance & site specific work on the Wittemoor, a state nature preserve in northern Germany.

Moor Battery: Performance Photo #1 Moor Battery

Moor Battery was one of several works Sturgeon executed as part of Symposium Moor 1992, an international festival of performance & site specific work on the Wittemoor.

Fishing Moor: Performance Photo #1 Fishing Moor

Fishing Moor was one of several works Sturgeon executed as part of Symposium Moor 1992, an international festival of performance & site-specific work on the Wittemoor.

TRAP/bat: Installation Photo #1 TRAP/bat

TRAP/bat is a sculptural video installation composed of six channels of pre-recorded video and one channel of live video.

NARKOSE: Installation Photo # NARKOSE

NARKOSE is a two channel video and sculptural installation, with poetic text (English & German).

Blooming, while we are sinking: Installation Video Still #1 Blooming, while we are sinking

Blooming, while we are sinking is a collaborative video installation (Akkermann/Sturgeon), with sculptural elements, sound and dual language, spoken text.

...of the father: Installation Photo #2 …of the father

…of the father – an installation evoking issues of the father and the nature of fathering, through two videos, poetry and sculpture elements.

Arms Length: Video Still #1 Arm’s Length

Arm’s Length navigates from the formal austerity of the museum, through the ambience of the city and daily life of a single parent’s familial efforts, to lumbering stalkers amid the ‘red light’ district.

Dissolving: Screen Shot #5 Dissolving

Dissolving is an interactive CD­-ROM, featuring poetry, sound, image map and Quick-Time movies. The central image, a b&w photograph of a seated figure engulfed in a cloud, forms a large image map which contains all the elements of the work.

audio-icon It is the best of times

It is the best of times
when the need for language surrenders
and gazes twinkle –

Brother embraces brother
neighbor greets neighbor
and the wind sings gentle in the branch

Cake & Eat It, Too: Performance Photo #2 Cake & Eat It, Too

A video projection performance at Kulturetage, Oldenburg, Germany with simulcast for N. German television. The performance depicts a fateful illusion or delusion by investigating some of the contradictions inherent in expanding consumption, unrestrained desire for possession and a short-­sided view of the consequence to actions.

audio-icon the Gnaw

Willful descent
of collective urgency
to control – to own, profit
no matter what the imbalance

audio-icon Dotted Lines

Borders, boundaries – dotted lines
“die Mauer”
disputed territory,
no-fly zones

audio-icon Turn Again in the Wrap

There is a way the body learns
when it moves through this place,
where it flows down below conception –
seeps beneath pretenses –

Reven Winged Hours: Screen Shot #1 Raven-Winged Hours

A collaboration between artists from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the Fachhochschule Schwaebisch Hall, Germany.

at low tide: Photo #1 at low tide

at low tide is a collaborative, multimedia project by John Sturgeon and Christina Nguyen Hung that was created for the das Wattenmeer (Wadden Sea), an exhibition at Artothek in Oldenburg, Germany coordinated by slap-social land art project.


An experimental poetic work spun from a train-rush of collective imprints of war and idiosyncratic archiving as memory, “Archivist’s” multi-stream image collages scroll or overlap within the larger frame, as a poetic thread fuses with acoustic compositions.

touch & avoidance-1 “touch & avoidance”

Composed of surreptitious iPhone recordings while traveling the London Underground, the video’s focus is on the way Londoners ritually use the array of electronic and digital communications media to connect but also to protect by simultaneously disengaging from the intensity of modern urban life. The ubiquitous “smart” technologies immediately pulled out in the public space of the Tube signals unavailability and affirm disconnectedness, yet concurrently offer unprecedented virtual connectivity even the potential of global community.



    |    2000

Dissolving is an interactive CD­-ROM, featuring poetry, sound, image map and Quick-Time movies, and was created as an interactive CD-ROM, both for data projector multi-media installation and single viewer computer. The central image, a b&w photograph of a seated figure engulfed in a cloud, forms a large image map which contains all the elements of the work. Entering inside the image, the viewer navigates through this ‘cloud body-­map’ to discover the various interactive elements of the piece.

The dominant visual motif and primary source for the work, are the ruined photographic remains from Hurricane Opal’s destruction of the Sturgeon family’s entire photographic history. Also featured are videos shot among the black bog pools and desolate moors of north Germany.

The poetic texts question the ineffable structure of storage and retrieval in memory. The moor’s metaphorical qualities associate with a source of energy (fuel) and as a reservoir of memory. Their particular chemical composition preserves certain materials very well, while committing others to complete decay.

Cumulatively, the piece addresses family history, issues of parenting, fate and of the hidden meanings discovered in seeming chance events and catastrophe. There is cognition of similarities and affinity with others, with an acknowledgment of the power of heritage – cultural, social, familial, and genetic.

Example Texts

Freud Faints
Hurricane Opal
Moor Leichen

System Requirements

This CD-ROM was created with a Macintosh 450 MHz Power PC G-4 processor. For optimum function as intended, the Dissolving CD-R should be copied to the hard drive of the machine and then the piece played from the HD. Approximately 500 MB of available space on the HD is necessary to copy the program.


  • 450 MHz G-4 processor, with 256 MB of RAM
  • OS 9.0 or higher and 128 MB application RAM
  • X 2 CD-ROM Drive


  • 500 MHz Intel Pentium II processor, with 256 MB of RAM
  • Window 98 or higher, NT4, 2000 128 MB application RAM
  • X 2 CD-ROM Drive


  • Set to Millions of Colors
  • 800 x 600 Resolution


  • Stereo
John Sturgeon’s interactive electronic media entices viewers into his drift of slow motion memory. Quick-Time movies with poetic soundtracks transform his experiential postcards from lonely places into metaphors about personal history. A figure seated within a cloud becomes the point of entry for an image map that opens into the complex geography of Sturgeon’s mind.- Alice Walker, “In the Mix” arts + entertainment, Pittsburgh City Paper (Sept 6, 2000)
I loved the content, and am so intrigued with this form - there is something about the way you allowed/enabled me to get deeper and deeper into the piece as I learned how to maneuver through it that is very different from other CD-ROM pieces I've experienced. And the flow of the sound was really striking, different layers of recording, different voices, natural sounds mixed with poetry. And I was very aware, by the end of the hour, that I was "making" the piece - I ended it as I wanted to - and to me this is what real interactivity is about - so far beyond the click of the mouse that other artists have focused on as "the" thing that makes a piece interactive.- Linda Dusman, musician and sound artist (2000)
Sturgeon draws on the personal and makes it universal in the mesmerizing interactive CD-ROM work, “Dissolving” which blends memory and disaster.- Mary Thomas, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Oct. 14, 2000)
John Sturgeon’s interactive CD-ROM “Dissolving”, explores questions of identity against the backdrop of a continuously shifting landscape. The surface of the water is compared to the surface of the skin. Things are hidden beneath these surfaces: stories, people, memories. Navigating through Sturgeon’s work, old photographs and home movies unexpectedly reveal themselves, immediately evoking a sense of nostalgia.- Simone Jones, Art Papers Magazine, Vol. 25 (May/June 2001)
Dissolving has been installed as an interactive CD-ROM in conjunction with a data projector as multi-media installation.- Pittsburgh Biennial (2000)
Sturgeon’s most recent piece, Dissolving (2000), is his first foray into CD-Roms. Here Sturgeon, as poetic archaeologist, excavates the rubble that was once his parent’s home, recently destroyed in a hurricane. Sturgeon documents the ruin while searching for the remains of the family archive. He asks what the nature of the archive is, particularly the personal archive. Must memory manifest in concrete form to be a legitimate record of reality? Due to their concrete longevity, are these manifestations ultimately more real and truer to the past than the once-lived experience of the events that archive represents? For Sturgeon, there is both desperation and relief that the archive is gone. On the one hand, it is as if shared family history has vanished, and without these artifacts generational alienation will increase, thus making memory all the more suspect, given its tendencies to reconfigure the past for its own comfort. On the other hand, the family is free of the burden of the archive; their subjectivities can now flow free of the inertia of history. Once again, Sturgeon is low-key, but stages a compelling work with an interface that doesn’t distract from the concept. Happily, and like in all his work, technology does not take center stage. It remains a tool best left in the background. Sturgeon’s work offers so much in that he consistently tries to bring us to that elsewhere of the transcendentalists, the mystics, and the philosophers of the nonrational, but does so without the fatalistic commitment or the rabid faith of the true believer. He shows that poetry is still tactically viable in an age of mechanical reproduction and appropriation, and allows his viewers to wander in realms beyond the immediacy of political economy. In spite of the claims that history has a come to an end with the conclusion of the great east/west struggle, Sturgeon still argues that this point in time is just one more minor transition, as the world cycles ever onward, leaving us to stand there in wonder as we try to understand the impossible. But most significantly for you the reader, Sturgeon reminds us never to trust an archive—an important thought when one is viewing a retrospective.- Steven Kurtz, Critical Art Ensemble (2000)
I’m not sure if I’ve found all the doorways nestled in that swirl or not. A condition of not-knowing that does motivate return trips to find out – an interesting feature of its “interactivity.” A condition of wanting to find out what I still don’t know, that movies, even those with deliberate cliff-hanger endings can’t quite generate in an equivalent way. The fact that you can and inevitably will tend to move through the piece following differing sequences of doorways on different days gives the piece a kind of implied infinity (of both space and meanings). The components can be stitched together in an endless variety of possible combinations and given that sometimes text voices can be made to overlap compounds this sense of “boundlessness.” I think it’s very effective to work across a range of “voices” from factually based to poetic. The hurricane, the marks it leaves, the people pictured, the tortured rubble all have a concreteness that can’t be totally transcended or transformed. So, you’re drawing meanings, poetical and metaphorical and also practical through voice-over and image combinations and sequencing possibilities is a process that can operate with enormous freedom. The underlying (generative) realities provide a center of gravity that keeps it honest and grounded. The act-of-God kind of humbling that that hurricane inflicted on real lives and on real things almost demands that it be given meanings. And who better to give those meanings than its victims (or their kin)?- Fred Worden, filmmaker (2006)


  • ArtistJohn Sturgeon
  • DirectorJohn Sturgeon
  • ProducerJohn Sturgeon
  • Poetic TextJohn Sturgeon
  • Photography (Damaged by Hurricane Opal)Sturgeon and Funkhouser families
  • DocumentationNational Hurricane Center Archives,
  • National Climatic Data Center,
  • Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, Austria
  • EditingJohn Sturgeon
  • Director Lingo CodingDiego Jose Diaz-Garcia, Adam Gulkis
  • Voice OversJohn Sturgeon, Donald Sturgeon, Jane Sturgeon, Kate Sturgeon & friends
  • Additional Voice OversBoudewijn Payens, Jörg Haberland