press release

The John Hansard Gallery presents the first major exhibition in the UK of one of the most influential artists working today. Joan Jonas is a key figure in performance, installation and video art and has maintained her position as a pioneer in these genres since the 1960s - her influence crucial to the development of important aspects of contemporary art.

Joan Jonas uses interlocking strands of choreographed movements, video and narrative in an exploration of technology, fragmentation of physical space and female identity. Often the performer, Jonas examines the self and the body through layers of meaning, using recurring themes in an idiosyncratic vocabulary of ritualized gesture and symbolic objects that include masks, mirrors, and costuming.

This exhibition of recent works will include two installation based pieces, Lines in the Sand and The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things. Based on the poem ‘Helen in Egypt’ written by H.D. in 1955, Lines in the Sand blurs the boundaries between fact and fiction, presented in a contemporary reworking of the myth. This multimedia installation features emblematic objects and imagery, shifting between different times and locations, combining Las Vegas kitsch with Egyptian history to represent the ‘fake’ and the ‘real’. The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things premiers this reworked installation and follows on from Lines in the Sand. Set in the American Southwest with inspiration from Aby Warburg’s 1895 trip to the Hopi reservation in Arizona, the installation comprises a four screen film installation and further explores Jonas’ interest in working cross-culturally.

A series of Jonas’ earlier influential experimental film works will also be screened during the exhibition.

Concurrent with the exhibition at the John Hansard Gallery, Wilkinson Gallery, London will be showing Mirror Works, 1969–2004 from 18 November to 23 January 2005. Joan Jonas will also perform the piece, Lines in the Sand, at Tate Modern on 23 and 24 November 2004.

Exhibitions at the John Hansard Gallery and Wilkinson Gallery have been supported by the Henry Moore Foundation. Performances at Tate Modern have been funded by The Felix Trust for Art.

An illustrated catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition, including texts by Tracey Warr, Jonathan Dronsfield and Robert Ayres.


Joan Jonas: Lines in the Sand
and her new work
The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things