Born Sydney 1988

Lives and works in Sydney

JD Reforma is an artist, writer and curator. Across these practices he employs collage and quotation broadly, recontextualising elements of contemporary visual culture – pop music, film, fashion, celebrity, media and advertising – to articulate their influence on our personal, political and emotional topographies. His work spans video, sculpture, performance, and installation, and often reveals the inequities of race and class that intersect across our relations, cultures, institutions, and society.

The Runner
By Liang Luscombe

Similarly idealised within the ever-expanding reach of the wellness industry is the sculpted, athletic figure of the runner. Presented as such is JD Reforma’s photographic self-portrait, Marathon, 2013, which was originally created as a magazine spread for art journal Das superpaper’s issue ‘Western Sydney: a portrait of a place’, and reprised for Free/State. Reforma, captured mid-stride, is clad in sleek athletic gear – comprised of a black tank top and split-sides shorts; he is framed by a series of black-barked eucalyptus trees, which conveniently match his outfit. Lush in its greenery, the image has an undeniable cinematic quality, a quality that applies equally to the vernacular of fitness lifestyle culture and athletic sportwear advertising. Just Do It the photograph seductively whispers to us …

Opposite this large-scale photo is a series of neon-light works, irregular in their formation. Each neon is a transposed line drawing, made by a series of runs undertaken by the artist around his home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, on Gadigal land, during Sydney’s COVID-19 2021 lockdown. Marathon is conducted under the backdrop of confinement – one in which the body itself is always viewed as potentially suspect, although this suspicion is unevenly distributed through cultural and political lenses.

Reforma transforms the photograph of the disciplined runner, shot eight years earlier, to one now that acts as a precise bio-political tool for mapping and drawing his movements. Utilising his phone as tracker during his runs, Reforma imitates the methods of bio-surveillance that have intensified during the pandemic. As queer studies scholar Paul B. Preciado noted in his paper, ‘Learning from the virus’, written during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the management of the pandemic reveals the dominant forms of biopower used by the state: ‘the border is forever tightening around you, pushing you ever closer to your body’.

We feel Reforma tightly navigate the urban labyrinth within this border. Each neon light extends the idea of a continuous line drawing, with the artist finding numerous iterations of runners’ paths within the parameter of the five-kilometre radius of his home. In the varied terrain of stairs, footpaths and park paths, which form the lines of Reforma’s drawings, we see the cartography of bio-political measures for contagion management upon the body itself.

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body