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September 5, 2019June 1, 2021

ACT Gallery
Wiesner Building, E15 Second Floor
20 Ames Street
Cambridge, MA 02142

Joan Jonas describes her artistic methods in forthright terms. She recorded her own voice speaking poetry and prose and bits of overheard conversation. She made a closed video system and watched herself while she performed. She brought together objects and movement and images like beads on a string. She moves. She films. She edits. She draws.

Joan Jonas: Sources and Methods is presented in recognition of her 2018 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy, an award that looks back on a lifetime of work, and on Jonas’s profound influence on a generation of artists. The exhibition begins, as much as possible, where the work begins: with drawings, and objects, and books. In these, we see some of the many sources from which Joan Jonas’s work has emerged.

The videos shown here date from 1999 to 2016. In them, as in her foundational works of the 1960s and 1970s, Jonas surfaces symbol and montage, art history and prose, poetry and sound, and interactions among humans, place, landscape, and other forms of life.

In 2006, Joan Jonas re-named a video work Begin Again. Continually mining her own work, re-editing her footage for use in new pieces, re-making performances into installations and videos (and vice-versa), drawing regularly and prolifically, and returning repeatedly to books and objects, Joan Jonas begins again and again.

This exhibit was organized with the kind assistance of Joan Jonas Studio and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, and curated by Laura Knott. Support for the exhibit was provided by the Office of the Dean, MIT School of Architecture + Planning.

Graphic design by Paul Montie. My New Theater III fabrication by Hook & Loop Fabrication Studio. Thanks to Chloé DuBois and John Steiner at ACT, Jin Jung and David Sherman at Joan Jonas Studio, and Emily Bates at Gavin Brown’s enterprise.


ACT Professor Emerita Joan Jonas is an acclaimed artist whose work encompasses video, performance, installation, sound, text, and drawing. Trained in art history and sculpture, Jonas was a central figure in the performance and video art movements of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her experiments and productions from that period continue to be crucial to the development of many contemporary art genres, from performance and video to conceptual art and theater. Since 1968, her practice has explored ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the authority of objects and gestures.

Joan Jonas is a New York native who continues to live and work in New York City and on Cape Breton Island, Canada. She received a B.A. in Art History from Mount Holyoke College in 1958, studied sculpture and drawing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and received an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Columbia University in 1965. Jonas taught at MIT from1998 to 2014.

Jonas’s most recent solo exhibitions include They Come to Us without a Word, for the United States Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), and exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London (2018), HangarBicocca, Milan (2014), Proyecto Paralelo, Mexico (2013), Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2013), Bergen Kunsthall, Norway (2011), and Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010). Her work has been presented in the dOCUMENTA exhibition in Germany six times since 1972, and she has had major retrospectives at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Galerie der Stadt Stuttgart, Germany, and the Queens Museum of Art, New York.

Jonas has been awarded the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Modern Art Prize at the Tokyo International Video Art Festival, the Polaroid Award for Video, and the American Film Institute Maya Deren Award for Video. In 2018, Joan Jonas and received the Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy, Japan’s highest private award for global achievement.