Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art: Feminist Art Base: Joan Jonas

The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things

The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things

Joan Jonas. The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things, 2005.

True to her form of translating the language of video (editing, montage) into performance and passing performance through the lens of video, the newest iteration of Joan Jonas's The Shape, The Scent, The Feel of Things, 2004–2005, is a sophisticated, layered, and at times exhaustingly complex reflection on diverse cultural source material. Commissioned by and performed at Dia:Beacon in October, 2005, this project is the result of Jonas's research into German art historian Aby Warburg's essay about a fin de siècle trip to the American Southwest. Warburg's musings served as therapeutic tool aiding his recovery from a mental breakdown, and Jonas's installation retains this condition of transformation. Formally, the initial performance—an epic narrative affair that supplements her standard female protagonists with a cast of mystical and historical characters, melodramatic musical accompaniment, and both prerecorded and live-feed video projections—shape shifts into static and sculptural elements. Two short "archive boards," used as performance props, are presented in the gallery space as both ephemera and totemic objects...the work remains a playful interpretation of Warburg's attempt to "diagnose the schizophrenia of Western civilization." -Catherine Taft, Artforum.com This performance is a site-specific work created for the basement of DIA Beacon. The text of this performance is a collage of fragments made up from art historian Aby Warburg's lecture notes delivered in 1923 to doctors at a Sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, thirty years after his travels in 1896 to the American Southwest, where he visited the Hopi Indians. The lecture was given to demonstrate that he had recovered from a nervous breakdown. It describes the ideas generated by his journey, which had altered his views of cultural history. Jonas interprets and responds to Warburg's text. -from Joan Jonas, The Shape, the scent, the Feel of Things, Dia Art Foundation, 2006


Native American culture, sanatorium, history, Ada Warburg, myth, Hopi Indians, performance

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