The American visual art pioneer Joan Jonas is more relevant than ever with her major exhibition opening at Tate Modern in London.
The SoHo survivor of an artist, Joan Jonas, shares about her works, about the 1970s scene, and her role as a woman. Jonas is preparing her best for the show at Tate Modern, the major survey of Jonas’ works that is scheduled later this month. The show will be largest ever presented in the UK, including an immersive gallery exhibition displaying some of the installations by her and items from her personal collections, alongside a 10-day live performance program. In the performance program, Jonas, in her 80s now, will appear twice. She will be performing the “Mirage,” a 1976 piece using chalk and blackboard and she will be directing other works including iterations of the famous “Mirror Pieces” during 1968 through 1971 that will be performed by younger collaborators. The show would reveal the pioneering artist to the audiences of Britain among whom she is not as much widely popular as she is in her home country. She was the pioneering figure who has incorporated video works for the first time in performing arts. Her way with the video camera and her incorporation of live video feeds into her performance was proven to be truly radical and seems more relevant in today’s era of smartphones and selfies.
Yet she is too much on her plate to be excited about her show at Tate Modern. “It’s hard to be excited, I have so much to do. Confidence is totally important. You have to be confident to get up in front of an audience, or to be able to give the illusion of it. I still get a little nervous. If I do a bad performance, I feel awful for weeks. If it works out… I can’t say it’s satisfying, but it is fulfilling.”
The last few years have proved to be more gallant for her and the retrospective at Tate follows her 2015 Venice Biennale performance where she represented US. The performance was described by The New York Times as “triumph.”
But to Jonas, it was quite unexpected. “I didn’t expect to be in this position,” she adds. “I’ve always been a little on the edge of the art world, albeit purposely in the beginning, when I was using different spaces, trying to avoid the white cube of the gallery. And it is wonderful to be recognized.” But she strives still to keep working and reinventing her art – “it’s what keeps us alive” – yet the tendency is worrying for her to be described as the godmother of performance art. “If I thought of myself like that, I wouldn’t be able to function. I’m pleased with the effect I’ve had on other artists, and on the students I’ve taught. But I can’t put myself in some exalted category. It’s important not to slip into repetition.”
Yet, for Jonas, being repetitive is much out of the question as the painter Susan Rothenberg once said that hers is an “excruciatingly odd” kind of a mind. And one can never quite guess what she will do next, as reported by The Guardian.