Juan Downey

Chile, 1940


Juan Downey was born in 1940 in Santiago, Chile. Juan Downey was a pioneer of video art. In 1961, he received a B.A. in architecture at the Catholic University in Chile. In 1963, he moved to Paris for two years, where he learned engraving techniques at the S.W. Hayter Atelier 17. In 1965, he moved to New York and studied at the Pratt Institute, where he later also taught. In addition to his video works, Downey produced installations, drawings and performances. After he discovered the portable video camera, "Sony Portapack", Downey began his diverse video series. From 1973 onwards, he regularly travelled to the Amazon basin. "Trans Americas" (from 1971, or 1973, according to other sources) and the documentary film "Yanomani Healing One" (1977) reflect his examination of the culture of the Yanomani people of southern Venezuela, which adopted both ethnological and autobiographical approaches and deconstructed western attitudes. In "The Thinking Eye", he uses video technology to address the "self" within cultural, political and economic systems. In the late 1980s, Downey began experimenting with the multi-medial world. It was during this time that he made "Bachdisk" (1988) and "Hard Times and Culture: Part One, Vienna fin de siècle", his last work, in which he establishes a link between the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Kingdom and the development of psychoanalysis. Downey received numerous awards, including grants from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation. He died 1993 at the age of 53 from cancer.

Artworks by Juan Downey