Joan Jonas

Reanimation, performance, Documenta XIII, 2012

“When I began to do performance, I thought: What am I doing in this context of the art world, of friends? Why am I getting up in front of people, moving around and doing tasks?”

“Then I thought of how people in other cultures work in relation to one another. A ritual is for the community. I began to look at the way simple gestures, repeated, connect the onlooker to the performer. So I started to work with my own rituals related to repeated, simple tasks or continuous movements with particular sounds, materials, and objects that I developed in relation to particular spaces”

“… as a woman. I think it was very important politically for me to be a strong artist, and I felt that way then and when I began later to work with the narrative like fairytales and stories, it was always related to the role of the woman in the story, because it represented the women in myself, as a performer. That was always an important question for me.  – Yes, it gave me a kind of freedom to construct. It was intuitive, non-literally, but very related to the way the poem is constructed. After the first mirror pieces — which were rather abstract, although inspired by Borges —  I used the ideas of identity and persona and the female. I was exploring issues of female identity and they were related to the Women’s Movement, although in a kind of fantasy way.

In order to explore new ways of relating to space and to context, my work was very much based in outdoor pieces. I did a piece in the sand-pit of a big beach, called Jonas Beach (“Jonas Beach Piece”) and the piece was based in the idea of distance and how distance affects image and sound. The audience was a quarter of a mile away from the performance and I worked through the idea of sound delay in space, and different configurations of figures in space. I couldn’t have done that any other place. I was interested in the way space would alter my way of proceeding in something. I also worked — when I worked indoors — with mirrors moving in the space; I was interested in how the audience’s perception of the space was altered by the moving mirrors.

A drawing in a performance is there, but it’s not an object. It’s a gesture. An act. I save my drawings, by the way. It’s not like I throw them away, but I don’t treat them as precious objects. I’m very interested in the different ways you use your body in relation to drawing: your fingers, your arm, your whole body. Movement itself is part of the process of making the drawing.

For instance, in The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, there is a voiceover of me speaking the words of the art historian Aby Warburg. I play his part in my identity within: I always merge with the subject I’m trying to understand and represent”

Joan Jonas

New York, Stati Uniti, 1936