Mystical worlds by Joan Jonas

by Danielle Demetriou

Scalding geysers, bubbling volcanoes and gushing streams: the magical landscape of Iceland 1,000 years ago forms the backdrop of a tale of a young women whose dreams foretell the future. Less predictable, however, is the appearance of a head with flaming orange hair that shoots up to the sky bobbing across a field, or the pair of disconnected hands wringing out a piece of fabric in a floating pink bowl.

The surreal video, “Volcano Saga” (1989), is one of a number of enchanting works by the septuagenarian artist Joan Jonas that are showing at Wako Works of Art alongside the “Silence in the Night” exhibition. For more than 40 years, Jonas has been an indefatigable pioneer of experimental performance and video art, collaborating with artists ranging from Yvonne Rainer to Simone Forti. Despite her 72 years, Jonas seems to have the energy of an artist less than half her age. Her latest show consists of “Reading Dante,” drawings from two recent performances which she did recently at the Yokohama Triennale; and “The Shapes, the Scent, the Feel of Things.”

In keeping with her love of legends and folktales, mirrors and masks, dreams and myths, a highlight is the aforementioned “Volcano Saga.” Brimming with multilayered digital techniques that create a surreal and colorful effect that still has a handcrafted atmosphere, the story is based on a 13th-century Icelandic myth. Sitting in a hot spring, flame-locked actress Tilda Swinton describes her dreams of broken rings and weighty headdresses that each foretells a future scenario of love and marriage, heartache and death.