Joan Jonas Reanimation 2010/2012/2013

  • MoMA, Floor 6

Reanimation takes inspiration from Icelandic writer Halldór Laxness’s 1968 novel Under the Glacier, in particular, according to the artist, “its focus on the poetic presence of glaciers, nature, and its creatures.” Shot on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, the installation’s dreamlike images of glaciers and dark tunnels are intercut with footage of Jonas drip-painting on snow or drawing on paper. Light from the work’s four video projections bounces onto a crystal sculpture at center, which casts shadows and reflections onto nearby shoji screens. The work’s swelling soundtrack, composed by Jonas and American jazz musician Jason Moran, pays further tribute to influences from the artist’s travels, incorporating yoik songs by Indigenous Sámi composer and activist Ánde Somby.

Gallery label from Joan Jonas: Good Night Good Morning, March 17–July 6, 2024
Additional text

Reanimation is an immersive installation inspired by the Icelandic writer and Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’s 1968 novel Under the Glacier, which tells the story of a man sent to investigate paranormal activity around a glacier. Shot on Norway’s Lofoten Islands, four videos depict dreamlike images of glaciers, icy roads, and dark tunnels, intercut with footage of Jonas drip-painting on snow or drawing with ice and black ink on paper. The videos are projected onto four shoji screens that evoke the aesthetic of a traditional Japanese dwelling. At the heart of the structure, a sculpture made of eighty crystals refracts light from the projections and casts shadows and reflections onto the screens. The environment—at once mystical and domestic—also contains drawings of symbols that appear in the work, and two “theater box” sculptures, as Jonas calls them, displaying videos in miniature.

Jonas’s multilayered works evolve over long periods of time, encompassing various disciplines. Reanimation began as a performance, in 2010, and this installation comprises both new and previously recorded footage. Echoing Laxness’s nonlinear storytelling, Reanimation combines his descriptions of the Arctic with excerpts from early-twentieth-century translations of Japanese Noh theater plays by poet Ezra Pound and art historian Ernest Fenollosa. The soundtrack also includes traditional yoik songs of the indigenous Sami people performed by Norwegian musician Ánde Somby as well as music by composer and jazz musician Jason Moran.

Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)
Multimedia installation with four videos (color, sound and silent) projected on custom screens; prefabricated house structure; two benches made by Ed Gavagan; crystal sculpture; two video sculptures with wood, trestles, and video (Under the Glacier [color, sound; 18:33 min.] and Fish [color, silent; 8:51 min.]); fifteen ink drawings on paper; three oil stick drawings on paper; and two china marker wall drawings Soundtrack and voice: Joan Jonas Sámi yoik singing: Ánde Somby Piano and additional sound effects: Jason Moran
Varying durations. Dimensions variable.
Ánde Somby
Acquired in part through The Modern Women's Fund
Object number
© 2024 Joan Jonas
Media and Performance

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