All of Jonas’s work calls upon this charged interplay between authenticity and illusion. She combines accessible, lo-fi, sometimes kitschy materials (like mirrors, masks, plastic globes, feedback static, rough cuts, and surreal overlays) to create illusory effects. “I wanted to make a magic show,” she has said of her work. “But I like to reveal the way the illusions are made.” It is with this honest mantra in mind that I anticipate Jonas’s U.S. Pavilion installation. In usual Jonas fashion, she plans to transform the space—a five-room neo-classical building erected in 1930—by immersing viewers into a multi-dimensional environment of cascading images, sounds, and movement. In particular, the installation will draw inspiration from the literary work of Halldór Laxness, who wrote on the spiritual, sublime qualities of nature.
Further details won’t be revealed until later this week, when Jonas’s presentation is unveiled. Though, when I spoke with Paul C. Ha, pavilion commissioner and curator, and director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center (Jonas is a professor emerita at MIT), he emphasized the artist’s unique aesthetic—and her ability to consume any space she inhabits. “The U.S. Pavilion is a modest space, in a way, but it’s amazing how ambitious this project is,” said Ha. “When people are walking through the exhibition there will be no doubt that it was Joan who created it. Video, installation, drawings—she’s really transformed the pavilion in a fantastic way.”