“We all come from the sea.”

As a pioneer of video and performance art, American multimedia artist Joan Jonas approaches fresh perspectives on a variety of experiences or issues in the world today. Over the course of her 50-year artistic career, Joan intertwines and layers art, research and performance into her work.  


In her work Moving off the land I (2018) Joan explores “the ocean as a poetic, totemic, and natural entity, as a life source and home to a universe of beings.” In Moving off the land (2019), she continues to advocate for environmental action on a most crucial resource today, water. The installations come from three years of research in aquariums and waters around the world. With video, sculpture, drawing, sound works and performance, Joan centres her work on oceans. Through her narrative, visual and moving performance she pays tribute to the sea and its delicate ecology of sea creatures, living organisms and the intersection of humans. With immersive sound pieces of whale vocalisations, a language not understandable to humans, contrasted against oceanic projections over still and moving bodies (including her own), the performance moves rhythmically, reminiscent of the ocean. 


Joan’s work recognises and contextualises the destruction humanity has had towards our oceans with a multi-layered representation between land and water, humans and non-humans. With references from poets, mythologies and researchers engaged with ethics and ecology, emerges a profound call to awareness. 

Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land, 2016/2018, Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco, 2019. Photo by Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture and Justine Elephant. 

Photo by Enrico Fiorese 

Joan Jonas, Moving Off the Land, 2016/2018. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco, 2019. 
Photo: FMCAC/Justin Oliphant.

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