Still from Joan Jonas, Left Side, Right Side, 1972, 9 min., video. Courtesy Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York..png

Electric Narcissus
Joan Jonas in person

Saturday, Oct 5 at 8pm, Metrograph
In partnership with Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), New York 
Co- presented with Triple Canopy
Discussion with Joan Jonas moderated by Kris Paulsen, art historian and media theorist.

CURATED BY Courtney Stephens & Mathilde Walker-Billaud

With the invention of the electronic sensor, the moving image underwent a transformation - from the movie screen, a surface upon which images of the world are projected, to an interface that connects the world in real time. This opening night program of Flaherty NYC's "Surface Knowledge" series investigates the screen as a site of telepresence, a conduit which connects the artist/performer with the viewer/perceiver. Conceived as a cross-generational conversation, this program of shorts shows how video artists such as Joan JonasPipilotti RistSondra Perry and others have sought to explore the existential effects of the mediated image, where selves are transformed into seductive mediums, online avatars, and SMS traders. These games of representation open up uncanny and sometimes hazardous environments, where depth of identity must interface with layers of layers of surface. Predictive of the instant communication modes that now define our lives, these films tread gingerly into out-of-body experiences of self in which one is neither "here" nor "there."

Screening followed by a conversation between artist Joan Jonas and art historian Kris Paulsen, author of Here / There: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface (MIT, 2017)


Joanne Kyger, Descartes, 1968, 11 min, digital
Joan Jonas, Left Side, Right Side, 1972, 9 min, digital
Joan Jonas, Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy, 1972,  17 min, digital
Pipilotti Rist, You Called Me Jacky, 1990, 4 min, digital
Mark Lapore / Phil Solomon, Crossroad, 2005, 5 min, digital
Sondra Perry, Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Work Station, 2016, 9 min, digital
Michael Robinson, Onward Lossless Follows, 2017, 17 min, digital


Joanne Kyger, Descartes, 1968, 11 min, digital
Created and aired on San Francisco public television in 1968 through the Experimental TV Project (later NCET), Descartes is poet Joanne Kyger’s sole video work, a psychedelic adaptation of her poem by the same name. Kyger was often associated with the male Beat poets, though she never limited herself to being of a particular school, and this poem, a reworking of René Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy finds her lending a female voice to Descartes’ mind/body problem. Like Descartes, she “resolved to make [her] own self an object of study” - but instead of applying skepticism to the illusory nature of forms, but Kyger’s work of electronic formalism explores the metaphysics (and illusionistic potential) of the video screen. (Adapted from “In the Beginning There Was the Electron”, Kris Paulsen, X-TRA)

Joan Jonas, Left Side, Right Side, 1972, 9 min, digital

In this early work, Jonas translates her performance strategies to video, applying the inherent properties of the medium to her investigations of the self and the body. Jonas performs in a direct, one-on-one confrontation with the viewer, using the immediacy and intimacy of video as conceptual constructs. Exploring video as both a mirror and a masking device, and using her body as an art object, she undertakes an examination of self and identity, subjectivity and objectivity. Creating a series of inversions, she splits her image, splits the video screen, and splits her identification within the video space, playing with the spatial ambiguity of non-reversed images (video) and reversed images (mirrors). Though Jonas' approach is formalist and reductive, her performance reveals an ironic theatricality. Illustrating the phenomenology of video as a mirror, Left Side Right Side is a classic of early performance-based, conceptual video. Source: EAI

Joan Jonas, Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy, 1972,  17 min, digital
Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy is based on Jonas' 1972 performance of the same name, the first in which she used video. In an enigmatic ritual of identity, Jonas performs as herself and as her masked double, Organic Honey. Dressed in a feathered headdress and costumes, Organic Honey is the embodiment of artifice, masquerade and narcissism — a female alter-ego whose guise is a frozen doll's face. This elliptical, nonlinear narrative performance explores themes that are emblematic of Jonas' early video work: The study of female gestures and archetypes, both personal and cultural; the use of disguise and masquerade, ritual objects and ritualized self-examination; and an inquiry into subjectivity and objectivity. The work's formal elements — the layering of mirrors and mirrored images, manipulations of reflective space and spatial ambiguity, and the use of drawing to add a further layering of meaning — are also Jonas' signatures. Source: EAI

Pipilotti Rist, You Called Me Jacky, 1990, 4 min, digital|
At once playful and disconcerting, You Called Me Jacky features Rist lip-synching to the title song, her image superimposed with fleeting images seen from the window of a moving train. Miming with exaggerated gestures or vamping in convincing imitation of Madonna, even as she flubs her lines, Rist negotiates the music-video format's claims to slickness and production values as well as its desire for raw authenticity. Music: "Edna and Jacky" by Kevin Coyne. Source: EAI

Mark LaPore / Phil Solomon, Crossroad, 2005, 5 min, digital 
Crossroad (2005), was conceived a collaboration between experimental filmmakers Phil Solomon and Mark LaPore after an evening of play, as the two friends looking up "cheats" online to bypass Grand Theft Auto's rules and discover their own surrealist adventures. Achieving a gaze that is both outside the body of the film’s avatar but situated in his interiority, the film suggests the disembodying tendencies of video game technologies. Radically, it uses a constructed world that has been designed for distinctly other purposes - violence and thievery - and bends it in the direction of emotion and enigma. After LaPore's death, Solomon went on to make three more films in honor of his fallen friend.

Sondra Perry, Graft and Ash for a Three Monitor Work Station, 2016, 9 min, digital 
Sondra Perry “appears” in “Graft and Ash” in disembodied form, specifically as an animated head that floats in and out of virtual space. Although constructed from her image, the visible avatar is a collective and representative we, definitively separate from the “real” Perry. The multiplicity of Perry’s form reveals an underlying struggle to be embodied, to become grounded in a physical self that eventually finds itself disrupted and undermined. Originally installed as a gallery triptych with an exercise bike in front of it, the piece suggests that liberating ones image from ones body, aka the virtual selves that multiply apart from ones actual presence, leaves behind a leftover, estranged body. The sense of mourning in the film feels connected to this profound desire to return Home—home being one’s body—positioned against the fact that blackness began across the Atlantic, and the black body has found itself fragmented and commodified ever since. Adapted from The Crimson

Michael Robinson, Onward Lossless Follows,  2017, 17 min, digital
In Onward Lossless Follows, Robinson pieces together footage he collected over the past decade, some of it found, some of it original. On the surface, the film is a dark, disturbing piece in the “amusing ourselves to death” vein, presenting a world decimated by climate change while each of us discovers our own bliss in the sensual, pseudo-religious pleasure of computers, phones, and other assorted digital beeps that occupy so much of our attention. But as a preacher rails against the modern world for putting its faith in science, the particular register of his voice touches a euphoria that manages to counterbalance the film’s melancholy and cynicism. “Young man, you look miserable!” he chides. “There’s no help in starrrrrs.” And he’s not wrong. Robinson resolves the film’s tension by turning a “stranger danger” video into an impossible love story and by transforming TV news footage of a horse being airlifted out of a ravine into a moment of ecstatic splendor that, lord willin’, might just redeem us all. (Berlinale, 2018)

Total running time: 72 mins

Metrograph is an assigned-seating movie house. To choose your preferred seats, we recommend that you buy tickets in advance online. TICKETS

An acclaimed multi-media performance artist, Joan Jonas is also a major figure in video art. From her seminal performance-based exercises of the 1970s to her later televisual narratives, Jonas' elusive theatrical portrayal of female identity is a unique and intriguing inquiry. Born in 1936 in New York, she received a B.A. in Art History from Mount Holyoke College in 1958, studied sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and received an M.F.A. in Sculpture from Columbia University in 1965.  Jonas has performed and exhibited her work extensively throughout the world. She has had major retrospectives at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands, and Stadtsgalerie Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Germany and most recently at the Tate Modern, London. In 2015 Jonas was selected to represent the United States in the 56th Venice Biennale. Since 2000 Jonas has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

Kris Paulsen is an art historian and media theorist. She is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Art and Film Studies Program at The Ohio State University. She teaches contemporary art history with a focus on time-based media. Her research and writing addresses the intersections of art and technology from the 1960s to the present. She is the author of Here/There: Telepresence, Touch, and Art at the Interface.

Back to full series info: SURFACE KNOWLEDGE