Season 7 Preview: Joan Jonas

Production stills from ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 7. © ART21, Inc. 2014.

Joan Jonas was born in 1936 in New York. A pioneer of performance and video art, Jonas works in video, installation, sculpture, and drawing, often collaborating with musicians and dancers to realize improvisational works that are equally at home in the museum gallery and on the theatrical stage. Drawing on mythic stories from various cultures, Jonas invests texts from the past with the politics of the present. By wearing masks in some works, and drawing while performing on stage in others, she disrupts the conventions of theatrical storytelling to emphasize potent symbols and critical self-awareness. From masquerading in disguise before the camera to turning mirrors on the audience, she turns doubling and reflection into metaphors for the tenuous divide between subjective and objective vision, and the loss of fixed identities.

In this preview from the ART21 Art in the Twenty-First Century Season 7 episode, Fiction, Jonas conducts a rehearsal for a reconfigured version of her early performance work, Mirror Piece I (1969), at Kulturhuset in Stockholm, Sweden. Having no previous experience in performance before transitioning to the field in the 1960s, the artist reflects upon taking workshops with choreographers such as Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, and Steve Paxton. “Maybe just one or two classes with some of them,” recalls the artist, “to learn now to move and to be in public.”

Season 7 of Art in the Twenty-First Century premieres Friday, October 24, 2014 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings). Fiction airs Friday, November 14 at 10 p.m. ET.