The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive unveils recent acquisition: a multimedia installation from video and performance artist Joan Jonas.
Berkeley, CA, October 8, 2007- The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) presents Joan Jonas: The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, a multimedia installation by one of the most important living video and performance artists. BAM/PFA recently acquired the piece in a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, continuing a relationship between BAM/PFA and Jonas that spans three decades. In 1982, the museum presented the first major
retrospective of the artist's work, Joan Jonas: Scripts and Descriptions, 1968 – 1982. Joan Jonas: The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things opens October 13, 2007 and runs through July 2008.
Jonas was born in 1936 in New York, where she continues to live and work. She studied sculpture at Boston Museum School and received an MFA in sculpture from Columbia University. Since the late 1960s, she has been a pioneer in video and performance art, innovatively exploring the physical body and its relationship to media and space. Her recent multimedia installations are difficult to categorize, springing from her interest in how to "re-present" her earlier performance-based works.
In The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things (2004-05) Jonas meshes five video projections of performance, spoken word, sound, and image with objects and props in a stage-like space. The origins of the piece date back to the 1960s, when Jonas took a formative trip to the American Southwest, witnessing several Hopi rituals. Years later Jonas read an essay on the Southwest by the German art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929), which spurred her to revisit her own journey. "For The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, I went to Arizona and I was thinking about memories of the American landscape, by which I mean memories from before the Europeans came here,” Jonas has said of the work.
Warburg's nineteenth century visit to the Southwest helped shape his influential views on Western art. Warburg's definitive lecture on the revered and ancient Hopi snake dance is staged in one of the five projections. Jonas poetically weaves the art historian's journey and recollections together with images of the Southwest in past and present, myth and history.
The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things was first exhibited in 2004 at the Renaissance Society in Chicago and Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris. Jonas continued to develop the work, adding live performances with music composed by jazz musician Jason Moran for performances at Dia: Beacon in 2005 and 2006. Footage from these performances has now been fully incorporated into the piece, further demonstrating Jonas' ongoing interest in "re-presenting" her work.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Pacific Film Archive will present The Objects, the Rituals, the Reel of Things: Video Works by Joan Jonas, a two-night series that surveys Jonas' groundbreaking forays into a televisual theater of the self. The programs include Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy (1971), Jonas' first piece to incorporate video, and Volcano Saga (1989), which features Ron Vawter and acclaimed English actress Tilda Swinton.
The UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) aims to inspire the imagination and ignite critical dialogue through contemporary and historical art and film, engaging audiences from the campus, Bay Area community, and beyond. BAM/PFA is one of the largest university art museums in the United States in both size and attendance, presenting fifteen art exhibitions and five hundred film programs each year. The museum's collection of more than 15,000 works includes exceptional examples of mid-twentieth-century painting, including important works by Hans Hofmann, Jackson Pollock, Eva Hesse, and Mark Rothko, as well as historical and contemporary Asian art, early American painting, Conceptual and contemporary international art, and California and Bay Area art. The PFA film and video collection now includes the largest group of Japanese films outside of Japan, as well as impressive holdings of Soviet silents, West Coast avant-garde cinema, seminal video art, rare animation, Central Asian productions, Eastern European cinema, and international classics.
The University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Additional support is provided by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Koret Foundation, the Bernard Osher Foundation, Packard Humanities Institute, the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Columbia Foundation, the Christensen Fund, and other private foundations and corporations, and our individual donors and members. Major endowment support has been provided by the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation and by George Gund III.
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