J R BRENNAN is a performing artist, musician, director, and curator based in nipaluna / Hobart, Tasmania. He is the founder and director of KIN an arts and justice organisation and Co-Director of Special Events at MONA

In recent years Brennan’s work has pursued creative solutions to criminal justice challenges, and has been made with artistic, academic, corrections and community partners. He has presented the findings of his artistic work and research with artists and convicted individuals at the Anti-Exclusion Symposium, Singapore; Australian & New Zealand Society of Criminologists (ANSZOC); the Reintegration Puzzle Conference and the 10th International Criminal Justice Conference. He is currently a PhD Student researching the use of arts to develop reintegration rituals for individuals leaving prison at the University of Tasmania.

Brennan’s work poses new and challenging provocations about the relationship between ethics and aesthetics in socially engaged arts practice. His performance work The Chat received a Green Room Awards nomination for best Contemporary and Experimental Performance and presented a sold out season in Sydney Festival 2019. With the support of the Legal Services Board Victoria, the work was subsequently developed into OUT ALIVE, a community focused workshop program supporting the reintegration of formerly incarcerated men. The project casts formerly incarcerated participants as experts on criminal justice and asks it’s audience to engage with the act of judgment and care.

“An astonishing collaborative work that leaps into the deeper reality of justice“ (Realtime Arts) and “…skillfully captures the impossibly fine line parole officers must tread…” (the Australian).

Currently Brennan is producing a series of performance and video works that draw on the auto-ethnographic research collected and observed in his role as a parole officer in Long Bay Prison, Sydney, and his ongoing work in experimental theatre and music in Australia, Europe and Indonesia. Each project employs a unique collaboration between artists, ex-offenders, partnering organisations and criminologists, creating an experimental dialogue at the nexus of criminal justice practice, performance arts and academic criminology. These projects have been developed in partnership with Australian and European organisations including Monash University, Arts House and Białołęka Prison, Poland.

Recent examples of Brennan’s work as composer and musical director include large scale performance works Artefact, by Willoh Weiland (Anti Festival, Finland), a work for pipe organ, traditional and death metal choirs; and Judith’s Return (MONA FOMA Festival 2021), a 3 channel video work created with Białołęka Prison, Poland, screened for audiences both inside and outside prisons in Australia and Poland. Brennan’s latest musical project is experimental metal outfit AXON BREEZE listed by NME in the top five performances of Dark Mofo 2023 and by The Music as “Truly unique, highly danceable, cerebral and satisfying all around… It’s fucking magnificent.”

Since graduating from VCA School of Drama (Acting) in 2000, Brennan has worked, trained and researched with Teatro Vertigem (Brasil); Ridiculusmus (UK); Wooster Group (USA), Deborah Hay (USA) and renowned avant-garde Polish theatre company Gardzienice, under Włodzimierz Staniewski, where he was company member and instructor between 2010 and 2014. In 2011 he became the first outside director to create a new work for Gardzienice in its 35 year history. The work (Znak Kaina) that explored community response to violent crime, marked Brennan’s directorial debut on the European stage and was hailed by Poland’s TEATR publication as a “landmark event”.

Brennan’s work is created with support from Australia Council for the Arts, The Legal Services Board Victoria, Creative Victoria, Arts Tasmania, Besen Foundation and RE ROSS Foundation.