Joan Jonas: The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things presents a complex five-channel video installation by this seminal video and performance artist. Since the 1970s, Jonas has worked between media, freely incorporating video, movement, music, sculpture, and the spoken word into open-ended narratives. The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things returns Jonas to the American Southwest through an artistic consideration of the Hopi snake dance, a ritual which strongly affected her during visits to Arizona in the 1960s. Jonas broadens the associations with references to an essay on the same subject by German art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929).
Woven through the installation are references to the Southwest, from Warburg’s 19th century recollections to the commercial present. Jonas has commented that she is interested in “how…stories are retold in modern or contemporary terms and how they can mean something to us. It’s something that I’ve dealt with a lot over the years: how stories come down to us in fragmented forms. 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. The Southwest is a perfect example of different cultures layered on top of each other, and next to each other. I’m very interested in how stories are retold, of course. That’s what we do—we retell stories.” Jonas’ projections and props are tableaux, investigating expressive values, shaping her stories and magical tales through visual and aural, sensual and imaginative clusters of affinities.
Joan Jonas: The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things is organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and is made possible through contributions to the Museum Fund.
Related programs are supported by grants from The James Irvine Foundation Arts Innovation Fund, the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Institutional support for MCASD is provided, in part, by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture.
Joan Jonas: The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things is curated by MCASD Chief Curator Kathryn Kanjo.