A brush with... Joan Jonas

Ben Luke talks to Joan Jonas about her influences—including those from the worlds of literature, film, music and, of course, art—and the cultural experiences that have shaped her life and work.

Jonas, who was born in 1936 in New York and still lives in the city today, is one of the most significant and pioneering artists in the history of video and performance. She draws inspiration from a wealth of cultures and traditions, alluding to everything from fairy tales to ancient myths, scientific study and art history, and brings them together in multidisciplinary installations involving live action, drawing, spoken word, music, sound and video. She discusses her early interest in Minoan culture and Renaissance depictions of space, life-changing visits to Japan and Iceland, and writers as diverse as Jorge Luis Borges, Halldór Laxness, and Susan Howe. Plus, she gives insights into her studio life and has a stirring answer to the ultimate question: what is art for?

Joan Jonas: Moving off the Land, Walther König, 272 pp, €25. Drawing in Circles, with Eiko Otake, Castelli Gallery, New York, 14 March-1 April; Joan Jonas, Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany, until 26 February. Joan Jonas, Dia Art Foundation, Beacon, NY, US, until 13 March. Her retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, opens in spring 2024

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