Reanimation Detail

Joan Jonas

26.10.2016 — 26.2.2017

National Gallery of Iceland
Video still from work by Joan Jonas, shows three figures and a hand in glove

Joan Jonas (b. 1936) is a pioneer of video and performance art and one of the most acclaimed working artists. She has had a profound impact on her contemporaries and her award-winning work has been the subject of several retrospectives at major art museums. Additionally, she is professor emerita at MIT (Massachussets Institute of Technology). Joan Jonas represented the US at the Venice Biennale in 2015.

Joan Jonas came to Iceland in the 1980s. Her impressions of the visit inspired Volcano Saga, 1985 - a video made with actress Tilda Swinton in the role of Guðrún Ósvífursdóttir. This close reference to Laxdaela Saga was a prelude to further works by Jonas based on Icelandic literature, both ancient and recent. Reanimation is rooted in her interpretation of Halldór Laxness' novel Under the Glacier.

Joan Jonas is among the first artists to use the video camera in her works. She discovered the new device on a journey to Japan in 1970 when the Portapak was in its prime. Prior to this, Jonas' worked in sculpture, took workshops in dance (with such choreographers as Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer) and created performances, which she staged with various kind of mirrors, used to divert and splinter the spectator‘s sense of perception. Despite the diversity of her work and variety of mediums, Jonas‘ core remains consistent. During a performance, the audience watches Jonas continuously activate the stage. She interacts with figures in her video projections or intermixes the projections with live drawings made on an overhead projector. She creates noise with bells, rustling paper or percussive instruments. The spectator stays busy, following the scenes as they intuitively flow into each other.

Reanimation Detail, 2010 / 2012, as in many other of Jonas‘ works, takes its cue from a mixture of literary sources and folk myths. Using direct passages and inspiration from Laxness‘ Under the Glacier, Jonas assumes the role of the rhapsode, who shows us that the resurrection, apparition and wraith are not as unnatural as we might expect but rather the reflection of the cycle of life. That Laxness should put focus on the extraordinary rising of bread in Eyrbyggja Saga is in Jonas‘ view a sign of the author‘s keen awareness of nature. She emphasizes his level of understanding by referring to the chapter on the bee and the dandelion, in which the dandelion scent attracts the insect and turns it into a carrier of spores, taking them beyond the horizon.

Joan Jonas´s works Reanimation Detail, 201 0 / 2012 and Volcano Saga, 1985 are now shown for the first time in Iceland, at the National Gallery of Iceland and the Akureyri Art Museum and are a collaboration of the two art museums.

Treasures of Icelandic Art

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