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Joan Jonas

Sun Signals

Joan Jonas Fri 9 Feb – Sun 31 Mar Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA) FREE
  • USA
Fri 9 Feb – Sun 31 Mar at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), FREE

Presented in association with Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA)

Sun Signals is the first exhibition in Australia devoted to the work of iconic American video and performance artist, Joan Jonas. Bringing together various practices – ranging from sculpture, performance and video to sound, drawing and installation – the New York artist’s boundary-crossing approach has had a profound impact on generations of artists. This selection of single-channel films and videos from 1968 to 1976 focuses on Joan’s early productions and explorations of time, space and self-representation. Through looping movement, mirroring and repetition, each work builds on the previous one, transforming the gallery into a chamber of unfolding gestures and cyclical compositions.

In 1970 Joan purchased her first portable video camera, a Sony Portapak, in Japan. Excited by its creative possibilities, on her return to New York she began experimenting with this new technology and incorporating it into her performances. Working with a camera, live feeds and television monitors, Joan created Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972) – the first performance to include video.

Sun Signals presents eight of the artist’s ground-breaking early films and videos, ranging from early video performances Duet (1972) and Vertical Roll (1972), made while working on Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy, through to the rare double projection of Mirage (1976) and Mirage II (1976/2000), that begins with the artist repeatedly drawing and erasing simple chalk images, such as the sun and moon, on a blackboard. Cyclical turning, days and nights, continues in Good Night Good Morning (1976), in which Joan directly addresses the video camera over several weeks, repetitiously wishing it good morning or good night, and May Windows (1976), an examination of contrasts and changes –of day and night, light and dark – from the artist’s loft in New York.

Alongside video, this exhibition includes two of Joan’s recently restored, lesser known 16mm films; her first film, Wind (1968), shot on a beach at Long Island Sound and Songdelay (1973), the culmination of a series of outdoor works that had its beginnings at Jones Beach, Long Island, in 1970. The exhibition’s title, Sun Signals, contains a reference to a sequence in Jones Beach Piece (1970), in which Joan used a mirror to reflect sunlight into the eyes of the spectators, generating a ‘sun signal to the audience’.

Experience a live performance of Joan Jonas' Mirror Piece I and II (1969-70/2024) on Sat 10 Feb, tickets on sale in December. Stay tuned!

One of the most significant artists in the history of video and performance, Joan Jonas was born in 1936 in New York, where she lives and works.

Beginning in the 1960s, Joan placed female subjectivity at the centre of her work, employing a complex linguistic repertoire including gestures, storytelling and images in movement. A tireless experimenter she explores the possibilities inherent to the interdisciplinary nature of art, a characteristic that has made her a point of reference for a young generation of artists. Over time, she has established an intense relationship of exchange in collaborations with visual artists such as Peter Campus and Richard Serra, the performer Ragani Haas and musicians Alvin Curran and Jason Moran. The continuous renewal and transpositions of the media Jonas experiments with sources from fairy tales to essays, from myths to local folklore and relate newly to contemporary life, both poetically and politically.

Institutions that have hosted solo shows by Joan Jonas include: Haus der Kunst, Munich, Germany (2022); Dia Art Foundation, Beacon, New York (2021); Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, Spain (2020); Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, San Paolo, Brasil (2020); Kyoto City University of Arts, Kyoto, Japan, organized by Inamori Foundation (2019); Fundação de Serralves, Porto, Portugal (2019); Tate Modern, London, UK (2018); Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Boston (2017); NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, Singapore (2016); Fundacion Botin, Santander, Spain (2016); HangarBicocca, Milan, Italy (2014); Sigmund Freud Museum, Wien, Austria (2006); Le Plateau e Jeu de Paume / Hotel de Sully, Paris, France (2005); Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Chicago (2004); Queens Museum of Art, New York (2003); Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany (2000); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Netherlands (1994).

Her work has been included in group exhibitions such as: at dawn, Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin, Germany (2022); The Imperament Display II, LUMA Foundation, Arles, France (2022); AQUARIA. Or the Illusion of a Boxed Sea, MAAT, Lisbon, Portugal (2021); The Paradox of Stillness: Art, Object, and Performance, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota (2021); The Unexpected Subject. 1978 Art and Feminism in Italy, FM Centre for Contemporary Art, Milan, Italy (2019); The Long Run, MoMA The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017); DO DISTURB, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2015). Among other institution that shown works by Joan Jonas: The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain (2010); La Biennale di Venezia (2009), Venice, Italy; Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain (2009); Castello di Rivoli, Turin, Italy (2006); Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid, Spain (2006); Renaissance Society, University of Chicago, Chicago (2004); P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center, New York (2003); Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York (2001); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1995).

In 2015 Jonas represented the United States at the 56th Venice Biennale. She has taken part in Documenta V, VI, VII, VIII, XI, XIII in Kassel, Germany. In 2019 the artist received the prestigious Kyoto Prize and in 2009 she obtained the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s first Lifetime Achievement Award.

Time & Location

Fri 9 Feb – Sun 31 Mar

Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA), 51 James Street, Northbridge / Yandilup


Free Event

Gallery Opening Times

Tue – Sun
10am – 5pm

Exhibition Opening
Thu 8 Feb 6.30pm

Live Performance
Sat 10 Feb 10am & 4.30pm

Tickets to the Live Performance will go on sale in December. Stay tuned!

Event Partner

Presented in association with


  • Joan Jonas, 'Songdelay', (still), 1973, 16mm film on HD video. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York. © Joan Jonas. Artists Right Society (ARS)/Copyright Agency, 2023
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