John Sanborn is “a key member of the second wave of American video artists” whose career spans the early days of experimental video art in the 1970s through the heyday of 80’s MTV music/videos and 90’s interactive art to digital media art of today.
John Sanborn's work has been exhibited on television (MTV, PBS, Comedy Central), as video installations (ZKM, Videoformes, Jeu de Paume, Whitney Museum, The Kitchen), screenings (Mill Valley Film Festival, MoMA, Sundance, Tribeca Film Festival) video games (Psychic Detective EA, Strife), Doom, Internet experiences (NONSELF) and music/videos (Rick James, Van Halen, Philip Glass, Nile Rodgers, Grace Jones, King Crimson, Tangerine Dream). He is known for collaborations with virtuosic performers, contemporary composers and choreographers.
Projects from 2019 - 2021 include live video/theater performances of God in 3 Persons, a collaboration with The Residents, at MoMA NY; commissions from the National Museum of Qatar (the permanent installation Alchemy) and Jeu de Paume, Paris (NONSELF); solo exhibitions at Galerie Tokomona, Paris; 836M and Telematic, San Francisco; and the premiere of The Friend, starring John Cameron Mitchell, at the Digital Arts Festival Videoformes, in Clermont-Ferrand, France. In 2022 he will be the subject of a survey show at ZKM in Germany.
John Sanborn holds an honorary Master of Cinema degree from ESEC, in Paris, and was honored as a Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the Minister of Culture for Republic of France. Sanborn’s YouTube channel has over 21 million views and over 110,000 subscribers. In 2017, the Mill Valley Film Festival honored him with its lifetime achievement award.
John Sanborn | select exhibitions
836M, San Francisco, All Roads Lead with artist Agnès Guillaume
Videoformes, Clermont-Ferrand, France; The Friend starring John Cameron Mitchell
Parade | Public Art Commission from the City of Berkeley
Museum of Modern Art, NY | God in 3 Persons - live video/theater collaboration with The Residents
National Museum of Qatar | Alchemy - permanent installation
Jeu de Paume, Paris | NONSELF
John Sanborn | select works
The Friend | 2021, 17 channel video and sound installation
The Friend speaks to diverse issues we are grappling with right now. It addresses American Messiahs, our search for answers to questions we KNOW cannot be answered and how to build a utopia when humanity is so damaged and complicated. John Cameron Mitchell plays the lead role, surrounded by a diverse cast of Saints – and their shattered relics.
And In Conclusion | 2020, 24 channel video and sound installation
An operatic overlay of two cycles; the survival of humanity as a species and the life cycle of a single human. The supposition that we’re projecting our mortality on the planet emerges from a collision of patterns and behaviors assembled into a hot mess - constructed from the climate crisis we’ve created.
God in 3 Persons | 2020, live video/theater performance
A collaboration with The Residents and based on their classic 1988 LP, this is a story about a disgraced preacher who falls in lust with conjoined twins, who may be miracle workers. It does not end well. Written for the stage by Sanborn, it premiered at MoMA NY in January 2020.
Alchemy | 2019, 30 channel video and sound permanent installation
Commissioned for the opening of The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Jean Nouvel, this poetically impressionistic work celebrates a mysterious and ubiquitous process, and it’s role in the establishment of Qatar as an independent nations-state.