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Ben Luke talks to Joan Jonas about her influences—including those from the worlds of literature, film, music and, of course, art—and the cultural experiences that have shaped her life and work.
Jonas, who was born in 1936 in New York and still lives in the city today, is one of the most significant and pioneering artists in the history of video and performance. She draws inspiration from a wealth of cultures and traditions, alluding to everything from fairy tales to ancient myths, scientific study and art history, and brings them together in multidisciplinary installations involving live action, drawing, spoken word, music, sound and video.
She discusses her early interest in Minoan culture and Renaissance depictions of space, life-changing visits to Japan and Iceland, and writers as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, Halldór Laxness, and Susan Howe. Plus, she gives insights into her studio life and has a stirring answer to the ultimate question: what is art for?
• Joan Jonas: Moving off the Land, Walther König, 272 pp, €25.
• Drawing in Circles, with Eiko Otake, Castelli Gallery, New York, 14 March-1 April; Joan Jonas, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, until 26 February; Joan Jonas, Dia Art Foundation, Beacon, NY, US, until 13 March.
• Her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opens in spring 2024.
This podcast is sponsored by Bloomberg Connects, the arts and culture app.
The free app offers access to a vast range of international cultural organisations through a single download, with new guides being added regularly. They include several US non-profit spaces where Joan Jonas has had solo shows or made performances, from PS1 in New York City, to the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Dia Art Foundation’s outpost in Beacon, New York. If you download the app, you’ll find that the Dia Beacon guide features a six-minute video in which Joan Jonas speaks about the three works in her current show at the foundation, including The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, which was commissioned as a performance for Dia Beacon in 2004 and now reappears there as a large-scale multimedia installation.