Archives menu


At the end of August 2018, Queen Mary University of London Archives received the personal papers of Jon John (1983-2017), performance artist and practitioner of body modification, from his friend and collaborator Paul King.

12 October 2018

news image

(C) Bérénice V 

To call them papers is, perhaps, slightly misleading, as they comprise primarily of props and items which were used in and produced by his performances. This atypical archive reflects the personal and visceral creativity of an artist, who begins his manifesto by stating:

"I believe that the action of love remains one of the few accessible ecstatic rituals in our disposable society"

Dr Dominic Johnson, in summing up Jon John’s career, gives further insight into the complexity of his character and art:

“Born in 1983 in the French Basque, Jon John was best known for using his body in situations of ritual suffering, duress, and difficulty in performance. He was also renowned for his piercing and tattoo studio AKA (Berlin and London), founded in 2009 and 2013 respectively, his development of techniques for piercing, scarification, and implants, and as a designer of body piercing jewellery.

His performances drew on extensive field research in the Middle East, North Africa, and India, where he investigated folk usages of ritual self-injury as forms of secular as well as religious transcendence (at the end of his life, he was collaborating with the lay anthropologist Paul King on Hearts in Sorrow, a documentary about Shia Islamic rites in Iran). Paying homage to these and other ritual practices, Jon John’s performances also incorporated references to high fashion, pop music, so-called ‘modern primitivism’ and industrial culture, magic, sadomasochism, and sex. His work was also centrally concerned with his intersectional identity as Gitano (Spanish Romani), Basque, and queer.”

The material covers many of his key performances, including The 2 of Us (2014), for which we hold two of the fabric canvases, ‘painted’ with Jon John’s own blood; his farewell performance Love on Me: The Finest Hour (2014), which explored themes of illness, medical treatment, love, and life performed less than a month before his death, for which we hold items of set decoration, props and photographs.

Beyond performances, his creative output included video, film, writing, and collodion print photography. He collaborated on projects with international artists, including Ron Athey, Lukas Zpira, Marilyn Manson, Kiril Bikov, Joey Arias, Jochen Kronier, and Nick Knight.

The collection level record may be found on our catalogue, under the reference JJ. Although uncatalogued, the material is well listed, so please do get in touch by emailing us to find out more and make arrangements to consult any items of interest.




Return to top