United States Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale

“Joan Jonas: They Come to Us Without a Word”

Artist: Joan Jonas
Curators: Ute Meta Bauer, Paul C. Ha
Commissioner: Paul C. Ha
Deputy Commissioner: MIT List Visual Arts Center
Venue: Pavilion at Giardini

In the 1960s, Joan Jonas destroyed most of her early work, a grouping of sculptures that drew from Giacometti. This bold act made way for a body of work defined by boundary-pushing performance, video, and installation that actively defies traditional categorization in favor of multimedia experimentation. Fed by dialogue with peers Trisha Brown, Gordon Matta-Clark, Claes Oldenburg, Nam June Paik, and Yvonne Rainer—pioneers of the New York avant-garde scene—Jonas has established an elastic practice that brings together mediums, collaborators, and cultural concerns. Ephemeral actions and immersive exhibitions alike address themes of body politics, the gaze, myth, ritual, and technology.

This year, at the age of 78, Jonas represents the United States at the 56th Venice Biennale with a new site-specific work. They Come to Us Without a Word reveals a network of objects, videos, drawings, and sound that connects the neoclassical pavilion’s five rooms. By filling the space with a diverse system of textures and images, Jonas connects time and space, past and present, to explore the phenomenal, eternal qualities of nature.

The installation will coincide with an exhibition of Jonas’s seminal single-channel videos at MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that will include : Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972), Songdelay (1973), Good Night Good Morning (1976), Mirage (1976), Double Lunar Dogs (1984), Volcano Saga (1989), and Lines in the Sand (2002–2005).


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