John Duncan (born 1953) is an American conceptual and performance artist. He was born in Wichita, Kansas and grew up in Los Angeles. He started his career in the 1970s, and became associated with the West Coast performance art scene. His work often addresses issues of power, authority, and control, often involving elements of personal risk and danger.
Duncan’s early works included confrontational performances and public interventions. He also produced a number of audio works, many of which incorporated found sounds, shortwave radio signals and field recordings. Over the years, his work has become increasingly focused on spirituality, ritual, and the subconscious mind.
Duncan has had numerous solo exhibitions in galleries and museums, and his work has been included in numerous group exhibitions. He has lived and worked in Tokyo, Amsterdam and the area of Udine, Italy; he currently lives and works in Bologna. His work remains highly influential in the world of contemporary art, with a pivotal role in the development of experimental music as a member of LAFMS, of Japanese noise and pirate radio in Tokyo.
Recent events include MANTRA, a multi-channel surround-sound concert for voice performed for sellout audiences at Immerson 7 (Montreal) as well as the Flussi Festival (Avellino) and Swedish Energies V (Brooklyn), RED SKY at Cabaret Voltaire (Zurich) and MAXII (Rome), TERRA AMARA with Coro Arcanto for Angelica (Bologna).
His music and performance work has been presented at Nicodim Gallery (Bucharest and Los Angeles), Fylkingen, Gallery Niklas Belenius, ZKM, MAK (Vienna), MOT (Tokyo), MACBA (Barcelona), Super Deluxe (Tokyo), CCA Kitakyushu, MOCA, KPFK, The Getty Center, and The Box (Los Angeles), L’Arsenic and LUFF (Lausanne), Raum, Netmage, Decadence and Angelica (Bologna), Ars Electronica and the 2nd Gothenburg Biennial.
SOFT EYES (2021), TRY AGAIN (2021), BITTER EARTH (2016), THERE MUST BE A WAY ACROSS THIS RIVER (2010 with Michael Esposito), The NAZCA TRANSMISSIONS (2009), NINE SUGGESTIONS (2005 with Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen), PHANTOM BROADCAST (2004), THE KEENING TOWERS (2003), FRESH (2002 with Zeitkratzer), PALACE of MIND (2001 with Giuliana Stefani), TAP INTERNAL (2000), THE CRACKLING (1996 with Max Springer) and RIOT (1984) are all considered by critics and composers alike to be benchmarks in the field of experimental sound and contemporary music.
His audio work has been released by Allquestions, iDEAL, Erototox, Vinyl-On-Demand, Fragment Factory, Tourette, Sub Rosa, Touch and Ash International. Recent LP releases include BITTER EARTH (2016), EMS Sessions Vol. 1 (2016), YEAH (2014 with Jim O’Rourke, Oren Ambarchi and Joe Talia), The BLACK ALBUM (2014 with Masami Akita), THERE MUST BE A WAY ACROSS THIS RIVER/the abject (2011 with Michael Esposito and Z’EV), The NAZCA TRANSMISSIONS (2009), two 5-LP box sets of early recordings (2006 and 2012).
Duncan’s events and installations have been held at Cirkulacija2 in Ljubljana, Nicodim Gallery in Los Angeles and Bucharest, Narkissos Contemporary Art Gallery in Bologna, Antumnbrae Intermedia in Austin, Flight Gallery in San Antonio, Flussi 2015 in Avellino, Immerson7 and Mutek in Montreal, ZKM in Karlsruhe, Gallery Mario Mazzoli, Peninsula Dotland, Mindpirates, Liebig12 and NK in Berlin, The Hermann Nitsch Museum in Austria, Fylkingen, Färgfabriken and Gallery Niklas Belenius in Stockholm, Performa, Gallery Michele Maccarone and PS1 in New York, Rod Bianco Gallery in Oslo, The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, the NoorlandsOperan in Umeå, Instants Chavires and l’Echangeur in Paris, Le Lieu Unique (with Giuliana Stefani, Leif Elggren and Carl Michael von Hausswolff) and Cable# in Nantes, L’Audible (with Nico Vascellari) in Lyon, The Lausanne Underground Film Festival (solo and with Bryan Lewis Saunders), Fondazione Antonio Ratti in Como, Palazzo Appiani for PX2 in Piombino, the IPCA Ecomuseum (with Valerio Tricoli) for Eco e Narciso in the province of Turin, Teatro Piccolo Jovinelli in Rome, AngelicA (directing Ensemble Phoenix Basel), Raum (solo and with Ursula Scherrer) and Netmage 07 (with Leif Elggren) in Bologna, MainOFF in Palermo, Gallery Enrico Fornello (with CM von Hausswolff) in Prato, Cut and Splice (with CM von Hausswolff), [no signal], Beaconsfield (with LAFMS) and The Church of St. Giles Cripplegate (with Alfredo Costa Monteiro) in London, The Getty Center, Black Box, The Box, MOCA and KPFK in Los Angeles, ORF Kunstradio and MAK in Vienna, Ars Electronica in Linz, CCA in Kitakyushu, and the 2nd Gothenburg Biennial. He has performed with and directed Ensemble Phoenix (in Basel and Bern, as well as for the AngelicA Festival in Bologna), Musica Nova in Tel Aviv, Zeitkratzer in Berlin and Coro Arcanto again for AngelicA in Bologna.