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Joan Jonas: Five Decades

15 Oct 2020
08 Feb 2021

The Pinacoteca de São Paulo, a museum of the Secretary of Culture and Creative Economy of the State of São Paulo, presents Joan Jonas: Five Decades, the first solo exhibition in South America by the American pioneer of performance and video art Joan Jonas. The exhibition is curated by Berta Sichel, and Jonas’ works will be on display in the galleries on the fourth floor of Estação Pinacoteca After the museum reopens. The show is co-produced with Phi Projetos and is part of the network of collaborations of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo’s.
The exhibition presents 11 works, including three large-scale installations. Volcano Saga (1985-89-94-2011), originally presented live and narrated by the artist, is based on an Icelandic story about a woman called Gudrun, who has mysterious dreams and needs someone to interpret them, predicting the future as an oracle. The story is told against the background of Iceland’s supernatural landscapes.

Stream or River: Flight or Pattern (2016-17) is a multimedia installation produced during a workshop given by Joan in Spain together with other artists. The work was first presented at Fundación Botín. During the workshop, Joan explored natural vegetation in the region of Cantabria, northern Spain, where her attention was captured by trees, including centuries-old chestnuts shown in the video. For the first time in her career, she used wallpaper to reproduce a forest full of birds, reflecting on environmental damage and showing a natural landscape that could actually still be there if the conservation of natural resources were a reality.

Lastly, Moving Off the Land II (2019-2020), first shown in Venice last year, also focuses on nature, showing the reality of marine environments. Commissioned by TBA21-Academy (an institution that actively fosters research, expeditions and artistic initiatives having to do with the ocean) and based on three years of research at aquariums around the world, the installation includes video, drawings and sound, emphasizing the ecological and spiritual significance of the oceans for different cultures.

“Joan Jonas’ art has been crucial for the development of many contemporary artistic genres, including performance, video, conceptual art and crossovers into theatre and dance. She has influenced generations of artists, and the presentation of her work to the Brazilian public is long overdue”, says Jochen Volz, Pinacoteca’s general director. Joan Jonas: Five Decades brings a selection of videos showing some of the most important performances created by the artist during her career, such as Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972), Mirage (1976) and Double Lunar Dogs.

The exhibition also presents the series I Know Why They Left (2019) – a set of small, subtle and vibrant drawings based on Jonas’ photographs of animal representations on the collection of Gardner Museum, Boston; and Kites, an installation with 15 hand-made kites using paper, paint and wood.

Joan Jonas: Five Decades is sponsored by Credit Suisse and will be open for visitation from August 15, 2020.



The show has its own bilingual (Portuguese-English) catalogue presented by Jochen Volz. It includes a critical analysis by curator Berta Sichel and a previously unpublished essay by American conceptual artist Robin Winters. Three other texts will be republished in the original English and have been translated into Portuguese for the first time: two essays by Marina Warner and Gregory Volk and an interview given by the artist to Andrea Lissoni, Julienne Lorz and João Ribas for Jonas’ retrospective exhibition at Tate Modern, London. The publication also includes photographic reproductions and video frames from the artist’s most important works.


Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas was born in 1936 in New York, USA, where she lives and works. She is deemed one of the most distinguished artists of her generation and has been recognized since the 1970s for her work in performance, video, sculpture and drawing and for her rich cooperation with musicians and dancers.

Joan Jonas trained in Art History and Sculpture, studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and received a master’s degree in Sculpture at Columbia University. She teaches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 1998 and is currently Professor Emerita in Art, Culture, and Technology within the School of Architecture and Planning. She has received the Anonymous Was A Woman Award, a program that awards grants to women artists over 40 years of age, in part to counter sexism in the art world; the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award; the Kyoto Prize, the main Japanese private award, presented internationally to individuals who have made significant contributions in the fields of science and technology, as well as the arts and philosophy; and the American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award Award for videos and films by independent artists.

Joan’s art has been shown in museums all over the world, in countries such as Germany, Canada, New Zealand, United States, Holland, the Venice Biennale, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Australia, Japan and Switzerland.


Service Information:


Joan Jonas: Five Decades

Curated by Berta Sichel [Bureau Phi Arts]

Project and coordination by Julia Borges Araña [Phi Projetos]

The exhibition is part of the network of collaborations of the 34th Bienal de São Paulo’s.


Closed Time

Pina Estação, 4th floor

Largo General Osório, 66

Free admission every day