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Moving Off the Land II

Joan Jonas  — 

  • Admission

    Free of charge

  • Location

    Ocean Space

  • Curated by

    Stefanie Hessler

  • Moving off the Land II is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Luma Foundation

  • Tours

Joan Jonas’s exhibition “Moving Off the Land II” is the inaugural public project at the Ocean Space. The installation is the culmination of three years of intensive research in aquariums around the world as well as in the waters off the coast of Jamaica, commissioned by TBA21–Academy. Curated by Stefanie Hessler, and on view from March 24 until September 29, 2019, “Moving Off the Land II” unfolds across 500 square meters of what was once the nave of the church of San Lorenzo. The show comprises new video, sculpture, drawing, and sound works, as well as a performance on May 7, 2019, centering on the role the oceans have played for cultures throughout history as a totemic, spiritual, and ecological touchstone.

Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land II, 2019, video still, Courtesy of the artist
Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land II, 2019, video still
© Courtesy of the artist

Joan Jonas is one of the most renowned artists of her generation. She is celebrated as a pioneer of performance and video art since the 1960s, a time when art was leaving the confines of the gallery space, converged with dance, music, and theater and tackled complex questions surrounding our relationship with the environment. For her latest work, Jonas has devised a large-scale installation that deconstructs and translates her mesmerizing performance "Moving Off the Land" (2016–ongoing). The exhibition includes video, sculpture, drawing, and sound, centring on the oceans as a totemic, spiritual, and ecological touchstone. The performance was commissioned by TBA21–Academy and first presented in parallel to the 2016 Kochi – Muziris Biennale, and again in collaboration with Tate Modern at the Turbine Hall in 2018. As is often the case in Jonas’s work, the performance has grown and morphed since its first iteration. During the opening days of the 58th Venice Biennale in May 2019, it will be presented in an expanded version in the exhibition at the Ocean Space.

Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land, 2019, Ocean Space, Chiesa di San Lorenzo, Venice. Performance with Ikue Mori and Francesco Migliaccio. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy.
© Photo Moira Ricci Joan Jonas

Jonas represented the United States at the 56th Venice Biennale. With her new work, she returns to Venice and revisits some of the themes touched upon in her US Pavillion exhibition They Come to Us Without a Word: the natural environment and the animals inhabiting it—from bees to fish—as well as the present danger of climate change and extinction. This new exhibition pays tribute in particular to the oceans and their creatures, biodiversity, and delicate ecology.

Jonas’s new work dives deep into the oceans, swims with the fish that inhabit the world’s hydrosphere, and turns to literature and poetry by writers who have homed in on the liquid masses that cover two thirds of the planet. Following the methodology that has gained her lauded reputation, Jonas combines prose by writers like Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville with texts by Rachel Carson and Sy Montgomery, and with moving images filmed in aquariums around the world as well as at the coast of Jamaica, where algae blooms and overfishing pose urgent threats to the environment. Employing her own voice, as well as music by the celebrated composer and drummer Ikue Mori and by the acclaimed musicians María Huld Markan Sigfusdottir and Ánde Somby, Jonas creates an evocative, poetic, and spellbinding experience.

Over many years, Jonas has visited and recorded footage in aquariums around the world. In the last year and a half, as part of a sustained dialogue about their respective work, the marine biologist and coral reef and photosynthesis expert David Gruber has shared with Jonas his captivating underwater recordings that focus on bioluminescence. In 2018, Gruber visited Jonas at her summer home in Cape Breton, Canada, where he shot footage of Jonas’s dog, Ozu, playing on the surf on the shoreline.

The exhibition at Ocean Space is the first in a series of shows, performances, symposia, concerts, screenings, and other events organized by TBA21–Academy that explore the oceans from different perspectives over the course of the coming years.

"Moving Off the Land II" is commissioned by TBA21–Academy and co-produced with Luma Foundation.