Current Laureate: Joan Jonas

An Artist Who Pioneered New Artistic Expression by Integrating Performance Art and New Media, Remaining at the Forefront of Contemporary Art for 50 Years

Joan Jonas

U.S.A. / b. July 13, 1936
Professor Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

In the early 1970s, Ms. Joan Jonas established a new artistic form by integrating performance art and video, and has since devoted her energies to evolving and adding sophistication to this form. Her remarkable achievements have earned an esteemed reputation and respect as a pioneer in the field of contemporary performance art and video art, and as an active artist who has been pursuing exciting relationships between performance art and new digital media.

After studying art history and sculpture, in the late 1960s Ms. Jonas built relationships with many artists in her native New York. After participating in workshops by Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs, who later became mythic figures in postmodern dance, Ms. Jonas was inspired to create her own original works based on body. From the 1970s onward, her works have featured a nonlinear structure without stories, with clear focus put on body and process, as well as diverse elements. Her remarkable long-term achievements also include her contributions in handing down the greatest legacy of 1960s avant-garde art represented by John Cage to future generations by developing it into a framework of postmodern art based on additive, diverse values.

Her Vertical Roll(1972), highly regarded as an archetype in the history of video art, integrated an actual performance with its real-time video screened on a TV monitor onstage. This work featured a revolutionary structure of coexistence of a live performance and its represented image, with a discrepancy in time and space between the audience’s viewpoints and camera angles, as well as the effect of electrical delay within the system. Since its release, the work has been studied and referred to by many artists. The masterpiece Reanimation(2010/2012/2013) in recent years, made with multiple layers of an endless series of diverse elements, is a labyrinth-like work filled with the nature and mythology of Iceland, along with drawings, sounds, and segments of her own earlier art. Ms. Jonas’ works contain a very contemporary narrative structure that encourages audiences to decode the works in their own original ways and achieve a wide variety of interpretations, including misinterpretations, rather than forcing them into a single prepared interpretation.

Since 1998 Ms. Jonas has also taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, winning respect as an educator of character, and has had an immeasurable impact on artists over subsequent generations.

For a list Ms. Jonas' selected works, see the Kyoto Prize website.

The University of San Diego will host the Kyoto Prize Symposium featuring the 2018 Arts and Philosophy Kyoto Prize Laureate on Thursday, March 21, 2019.
Register for the Kyoto Prize Symposium.

Ms. Jonas will also participate in a panel discussion on Thursday afternoon:

"The ArtStory": A panel featuring Ms. Joan Jonas
Thursday, March 21, 2019, 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.
Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theater
Register for the Panel Discussion.

Both events are free and open to the public. Registration is required.

Joan Jonas in her studio Play Video
Video: Interview with Joan Jonas

Watch an interview with Joan Jonas and tour her New York City studio.

Video from the Tate YouTube channel, March 2018.