(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.



    |    1994

TRAP/bat is a sculptural video installation composed of six channels of pre-recorded video and one channel of live video. The primary cave-like image is the projector screen, which is a large flat, designed as abstracted, cut-out shapes of closely situated stalactite and stalagmite forms. A freeze frame, video image of the viewer is seen through the negative spaces in the cave/screen’s stalactite and stalagmite forms. This image has been trapped by a surveillance camera in the entry hall and inverted, like a bat, on a large rear screen monitor in the midst of the cave. A second rear screen monitor within the cave displays a slightly delayed repeat or echo of the projector’s video scenes. Six video monitors hang from the ceiling and are on the floor, screen sideways, vertically elongated, displaying computer graphic images of stalactite and stalagmite shapes set in video black. These computer graphic shapes contain video and computer animation imagery that are keyed and stretched on to the surfaces, displaying symbols of various social/cultural crises and international scenes of camera verité.

The content of the work is directed towards a symbolic healing, or an enlightenment to the metaphysical core of the current world predicament. The text for TRAP/bat was recorded as a cyclical loop – mismatching in number so that different words combined each time around in the loop. The idea was to find original audio track and mix it with bat sounds to create a similar acoustic sense of the installation.

Commissioned By

The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY


Interactive Still Store Construction and Technical Design – Bob Kollar
Bat Mask Construction and Design Collaboration – Amy Novelli

Additional Support and Thanks

Carnegie Mellon University, Faculty Development Grant
LyzaBeth Sallon
Ted McCann
Jon Beckley
Michael Pestel

Suspended – where there is no – SELF
Trapped – where there is no – FORM
Thirsty – where there is no – KINDNESS
Sanctioned – where there is no – HOPE
Empowered – where there is no - CENTER

...The bat has positive aspects, most significantly it regulation of the insect population. In many societies (especially the Mezo-American), this mammal symbolizes metaphysical or ritual death and rebirth. The artist associates the hanging bat with the tarot card, the hanged man, who represents a link between the personality and the higher self. For Sturgeon, therefore, the bat is also a metaphor for psychological change.- Barbara London, Curator, Museum of Modern Art
...his breakthrough work occurred a year earlier in an installation entitled TRAP/bat (1993) that Sturgeon produced for the Museum of Modern Art’s (NY) project room. While there is still clear continuity with his earlier work, a higher degree of ambivalence and skepticism is introduced. TRAP/bat is Sturgeon’s personal arrangement of Plato’s cave. The viewer is fully enveloped in a dark cave construction that has video projected on its screenal stalactites and stalagmites. Many of the images are again of cultural extremes—war, police actions, riots, homelessness, and general destruction, but these phenomena do not fit neatly into polarized boxes. In fact, even in these times of horror, there are moments of liberation due to the vast multidimensional perspective that this installation provides. In addition, Sturgeon has added images of his head and shoulders hanging upside down in bat-like repose, and does the same with images of people who are in the space. Viewers are photographed as they enter the cave in an act of Sturgeon’s expanding recognition of individuation. Sturgeon constructs a perfect world prison in the platonic tradition (although no one could ever call Sturgeon a Platonist). It’s monumental, full of action, a riot of semiosis, but it is only just that—a simulacrum that actually ties one down into a little room where, as the soundtrack suggests, there is no consciousness, or as Plato believed, where there is no sun to light the world and erase the shadows. As if this situation isn’t disturbing enough, Sturgeon intensifies the moment by adding images of bats flying around in frenzy. While there is order to these configurations, it still conjures a feeling of chaos indicative of a very nervous culture that is always flying blind.- Steven Kurtz, Critical Art Ensemble, excerpt from, Radical Mysticality: The Work of John Sturgeon


  • ProducersEdda Akkermann, John Sturgeon
  • WritingJohn Sturgeon
  • CameraJohn Sturgeon
  • Additional CameraEdda Akkermann
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM,
  • The Valley of the Gods, UT
  • Stalagmite/Stalactite Mix EditingAndres Tapia-Urzua
  • Stalagmite/Stalactite AnimationDonald Alexander
  • Voice OverJohn Sturgeon
  • Bat AudioEdda Akkermann
  • Crusader Vault Bat RecordingsRobert Dunn, Acre, Israel
  • Additional Audio RecordingGerhard Mascher, Niedersachsen, Germany
  • Audio EngineeringEd Um-Bucholtz
  • Audio CompositionsJohn Sturgeon
  • Post-ProductionJohn Sturgeon