Joan Jonas Characteristics

Joan Jonas is one of the pioneering performance artists in America. Her work in the 1970s inaugurated the synchronization of disciplines that had previously developed along separate lines, the synthesis of which so characterizes the situation of art today. Her highly ambitious video work, developed in tandem with performance, explores issues of female sexuality and identity through the disruption and dislocation of video space. Her later video work involves experimental, often ridiculous, narratives that speak metaphorically to issues of desire, gender, and memory.

--Video Databank Catalog

Like others of her generation, Jonas works in an oblique relationship to both dance and theater, positioning herself as a sculptor concerned with time, text, and the specific psychological conditions and visual qualities of video. From an overview of Jonas's tapes, it appears that for her, these conditions and qualities are essentially two: the ability to fragment and the ability to transform. As she herself has noted, "video takes you into a space you wouldn't otherwise be in. I [Jonas] would imagine how it would look to an audience, what they would be looking at, how they would perceive the ambiguities and illusions of space."

Jonas sees her works as bridging worlds that are normally distinct and irreconcilable. She uses video to frame a reality in which time is deconstructed and represented as a layered field of experiences, merging autobiography with science fiction, self-portraiture with fantastic landscape, literary sources with abstract sculptural amplifications. Jonas achieved such experiences through the use of props, which to her determine the movements and animate the set. The objects she uses are not literal adaptations of the elements in the story or concept, but are symbolic, and representative. Finally, she is interested in constructing a reality in which the narrative is stripped of its integral velocity and relegated to an equal status with other, more properly sculptural elements of work.

Compiled By: Dawn Ambrose from žJoan Jonas Scripts and DescriptionsÓ

Joan Jonas