- Joan JonasBy Haus de Kunst
- Joan Jonas: I Want to Live in the Country (and Other Romances)By Susan Morgan
- Joan Jonas: In the Shadow a shadow. The Work of Joan JonasBy by J. Simon, J. Burton, B, Clausen, and D. Crimp
- Joan Jonas is on Our MindBy Frances Richard
- Joan Jonas - They Come To Us Without A WordBy U.M. Bauer, A. Reynolds, M. Warner, P. Ha.
- Joan Jonas: Performances Film Installations 1968-2000By Johann-Karl Schmidt
- Joan JonasBy M. Warner, A. Daneri, and A. Ratti
- PAJ (May 2014) - Performance Drawings (PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art)By B. Marranca, M. O'Hara, T. Orrici, and J. Bokaer
Important Art by Joan Jonas
In Mirror Piece I, Jonas along with other female performers employs mirrors as props in which they slowly perform a series of choreographed movements in front of a live audience. The work immediately recalls the work of fellow artists Ana Mendieta and Francesca Woodman, but while these two artists performed only for their camera, the audience is crucial for Jonas. Indeed, in the Jonas version of this way of assessing identity, the mirrors reflect not only the bodies of the performers, but also, and just as importantly, the audience members themselves. Indeed, by using very large mirrors that could easily break if not handled correctly, Jonas sought to create an unsettling feeling. When asked about the use of the mirror in her work, Jonas has commented that she "was interested in how an audience might feel uneasy as they were caught looking at themselves in the performance. In a way, narcissism is the nature of the medium."
This interest in narcissism, in the fabric of selfhood, remains an equally crucial focus today as it was in 1969. The work was re-staged in 2018 at the Tate Modern exhibition, and Jonas has said of such re-envisioning that she continues to find new layers and meaning in her work. As part of a larger series of other Mirror Pieces, this family of works is used as a tool to confront viewers on the subject of voyeuristic social standards placed upon women in western society.
Jonas's performance-based practice was revolutionized and invigorated in 1970 when - while visiting Japan - she bought her first hand-held video camera. Upon returning home she started to play and experiment with the capabilities and limits of this new portable technology. Using the camera, a TV screen, and a live video feed, she created her first video performance: Organic Honey's Video Telepathy. In this performance, Jonas performs as herself, as well as a masked alter ego double, Organic Honey. Much like a character from a Claude Cahun performance or a Cindy Sherman film still, Honey, dressed in a costume and doll mask, stood for the artists' questioning of fixed identity, narcissism, and womanhood. Mirrors and reflected mirrored images were used on a technical level for spatial layering, as well as on the level of meaning to separate Jonas from Honey, and paradoxically to unite the two together. By using props including robes, fans, and headdresses, a curator at the Dia Art Foundation suggests that Jonas "foregrounds emblems of female identity."
This work marks a cornerstone for Jonas in a long lineage of performances that discuss and question women's issues, body image, and societal demands placed on the female. She comments that this questioning, and indeed the work itself, came about at a time when she was an active part of a women's group; "It had a big effect on my life. The whole [women's liberation] movement did. Our group was small. We had a lot of pent-up anger about the whole situation. [We went in for] self-examination, and for revealing intimate aspects of one's sensibilities. Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy was all about asking the question: what is the feminine? I was concerned with the roles women play". Furthermore, it is interesting that the words "organic" and "telepathy" creep into the title of this work. By using the word "organic" Jonas reveals her love of the earth and desire to nurture and protect its gifts. And by introducing "telepathy", she infers that there is some sort of spiritual and magical faculties at work in her examination of self.
The Juniper Tree installation was first created in 1976, and has since been recreated in both 1994 and 2018. The work explores Jonas's love of folklore and of fairy tales. The work is her reinterpretation of the tale of the same name taken from the first volume of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales. The story begins with a woman wishing for a child "as red as blood and as white as snow", while standing by the juniper tree where she would eventually be buried. After giving birth to a boy, she dies and her husband re-marries and has a daughter. The step-mother, jealous of the step-son, kills him and serves his remains to his father in a stew. The son is then reincarnated into a bird and gets his revenge on his stop-mother by crushing her with a millstone. Upon the stepmother's death, the son is reborn and reunited with his father and half-sister.
This work became an important transitional work for Jonas, in that she uses paint, the practice of drawing, as well as narrative and text to represent the symbols and motifs in the story. In the process of performing the work, she would make ritualistic and totem-like paintings, working on an installation stage-set filled with props and music. The documentation of this installation would then be added to following recreations, including sound, all serving to further layer and add to the rich narrative, symbolism, and imagery.
Indeed, Jonas is particularly interested in how fairy tales change slightly as they are passed from one generation to the next. She is also interested in the extreme casting of the "good" or "evil" woman. In her performance, Jonas takes on multiple roles, that of the wise woman, the storyteller, and the evil woman, asserting to an audience that life is not easy to define, and human actions not easy to predict. Artist Kiki Smith shares a similar passion for fairytales and often re-envisions the classic: Little Red Riding Hood.