Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas

United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Joan Jonas, The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, 2005. Dia Beacon. Photo: Paula Court.

May 12, 2014

Joan Jonas
May 9–November 22, 2015

United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale

MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, will present Joan Jonas as the representative for the United States at the 56th International Art Exhibition—la Biennale di Venezia. Jonas is a pioneering figure in performance art and video and is one of the most important contemporary artists today. She will create a new multimedia installation specifically for the U.S. Pavilion in Venice, Italy, to be on view May 9 to November 22, 2015.

Jonas’s art practice developed out of her art history studies, and then expanded to performance and film in the 1960s through her involvement with the New York avant-garde scene. Her work has been a major influence on contemporary art. Jonas has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since 1998 and is currently Professor Emerita. The U.S. Pavilion is curated by Ute Meta Bauer, a former colleague of Jonas’ at MIT who is currently the director of the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, and by Paul C. Ha, director of MIT List Visual Arts Center who also serves as commissioner for the project. The 56th International Art Exhibition—la Biennale di Venezia is directed by Okwui Enwezor, a curator, art critic, and writer, and the Director of the Haus der Kunst, Munich.

For the five galleries of the U.S. Pavilion, Joan Jonas will create new, interrelated site-responsive installations—incorporating video, drawings, objects, and sound—that focus on, as she notes, “landscape and natural phenomena” and “the ocean as a poetic, totemic, and natural entity, as a life source and home to a universe of beings.” In developing a project, Jonas uses, as she says, “a free associative method to collect images and put them together” and gathers text fragments and intercuts them to create an open-ended narrative. Jonas herself shoots all the video, creates the sculptural and drawn elements, writes the script, and designs the soundtrack as well as the visitor’s overall journey through the interrelated elements of her multimedia, temporal work.

Joan Jonas’s exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion in 2015 will be the third Venice Biennale project the List Visual Arts Center has presented, preceded by Fred Wilson: Speak of Me as I Am (2003) (commissioner Kathleen Goncharov) and Ann Hamilton: Myein (1999) (commissioners Katy Kline and Helaine Posner). In addition, MIT alumna Jennifer Allora represented the United States in 2011 in Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla: Gloria, organized by the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 

Joan Jonas (b. 1936, New York) lives and works in New York. She studied sculpture, art history, and literature at Mount Holyoke College, the Boston Museum School, and Columbia University. Her work encompasses video, performance, installation, sound, text, and drawing. Since 1968, her practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the authority of objects and gestures. The recipient of numerous honors and awards, Jonas’s most recent solo exhibitions include those at HangarBicocca, Milan (forthcoming 2014); Centre for Contemporary Art, Kitakyushu Project Gallery, Japan (2014); Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, Stockholm (2013); Proyecto Paralelo, Mexico (2013); Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2013); Bergen Kunsthall, Norway (2011); and The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010). She has been represented in dOCUMENTA in Kassel, Germany, six times since 1972.

About the Commissioner and Curators for the U.S. Pavilion:

Paul C. Ha, director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, has more than 25 years of professional experience in art and museum administration, fundraising, curating, and teaching. He has curated and worked with more than 100 artists in solo and group exhibitions, and many artists received their first major museum exhibitions with his support at the List Center, Yale University Art Gallery, White Columns, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Ute Meta Bauer is a veteran curator of exhibitions and presentations on contemporary art, film, video, and sound, with a focus on transdisciplinary formats. She is Founding Director of the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA) at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, where she is also a professor in the School of Art, Media and Design. She is currently a research affiliate at MIT and was founding director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology. She recently curated Theatrical Fields, commissioned by Bildmuseet Umeå, Sweden (2013–14), which includes various works by Joan Jonas and will be shown at the CCA in Singapore in summer/fall 2014. 


Joan Jonas to represent the United States at 56th Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition, presented by MIT List Visual Arts Center
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United States Pavilion at the Venice Biennale
May 12, 2014

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