Joan Jonas. Volcano Saga. 1989

Joan Jonas Volcano Saga 1989

  • Not on view

Volcano Saga was originally performed live, featuring media artist Jonas on stage narrating an Icelandic folktale about a woman named Gudrun whose adventures revolved around four mysterious dreams that required the services of a soothsayer. Projections of Iceland's otherworldly landscape furnished a visual backdrop.

Jonas ingeniously translated this live performance into video. No longer is she the narrator of events; in the video, actors fill the roles of Gudrun and the soothsayer. Taped in a studio then superimposed on shots of Iceland's vistas, the actors look like paper dolls pasted on the scenery — similar to what Jonas achieved with a projection backdrop in the original performances.

The video frames the myth of Gudrun with a real–life story. In the video Jonas recounts that in the course of gathering footage for the work she traveled to a scenic region of Iceland; a storm suddenly rose and her car was blown off the road. Jonas implies that this harrowing event connects her to Iceland's preternatural terrain and to the vicissitudes of Gudrun’s life. This autobiographical introduction is one of the many layers and folds of illusion and reality that vitalize Volcano Saga. The work is intricate, consonant with the perplexing ideas that science and technology contributed to everyday life in the final decades of the twentieth century.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 100.
Video (color, sound)
28:30 min.
Object number
© 2021 Joan Jonas. Image courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York.
Media and Performance

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