Joan Jonas has been chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. Paul Ha, the director of the M.I.T. List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Ute Meta Bauer, the director of Singapore’s Center for Contemporary Art at the Nanyang Technological University will curate the exhibition.
Jonas is represented by Yvon Lambert Gallery, and is probably best known for her pioneering work in the 60’s and 70’s as a feminist performance and video artist. In a video produced by MoMA she described her interest in performance as partly informed by gender. “Performance,” she said, “wasn’t dominated by men. It gave women a voice.”
YouTube is good for a quick primer on the artist’s early work. “Vertical Roll,” a black-and-white video made in 1972 that pictures the female body from various camera angles and in different positions, is available in its entirety (20 minutes). The image is broken into a pounding frame that moves down the screen like a broken signal. Also online are clips of “Mirage,” a performance (and MoMA installation) that began at Anthology Film Archives in 1976, in which Jonas uses a blackboard to draw and erase images. “Mirage was androgynous,” she told MoMA. “It was about opposites—male-female, light and dark—being interchangeable and in flux.” Later, when discussing her influences, she talked about why her art looks the way it does: “My work had a kind of stiffness the way the bodies move. That was due to several things. One would be my inexperience as a performer but also relying on say, Egyptian art or Giacometti. I think all those have a linear quality to them. Which influenced me a lot.”
So far, the only details released tell us that the Venice Biennale project will be a new site-specific installation that incorporates video, drawings, objects, and sound. That’s doesn’t tell us too much, but for the curious art reader, a large selection of Jonas’s current work is available on Yvon Lambert’s website. For now, that site and YouTube are all we’ve got to go on.