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May 4, 2004 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
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Joan Jonas: Lines in the Sand
The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things May 2 – June 13, 2004

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Opening Reception Sunday May 2, from 4:00 to 7:00 pm, featuring a talk with the artist from 5:00 to 6:00 pm.

The Renaissance Society presents two recent works by video and performance art pioneer.

Since the 1960s, Joan Jonas has been a key figure in the field of performance and video art. Having been trained as a sculptor and later attending dance workshops at the Judson Church, Jonas was as much a participant in the post-minimalist dialogue surrounding sculpture as she was a pioneer in the emerging field of performance art. Her most recently completed piece, Lines in the Sand, (2002) is based on two works by the Imagiste poet H.D., Tribute to Freud (1944) and Helen in Egypt (1955), H.D.’s classic re-working of the story of Helen of Troy.

Narrated by Jonas, Lines in the Sand is a deeply subjective meditation no less about the fate of self than of civilization. By chronologically and geographically transposing the story of H.D. and her alter ego, Helen, on to present day Las Vegas, whose Luxor Hotel provides the perfect mise en scene, Jonas subtly and not so subtly transcribes contemporary reality into myth. Picking up where H.D. left off, Jonas’ suggestion that a now liberated Helen has turned up in Vegas is perfectly in keeping with myth’s ability to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction. But despite its humorous aspect, the date of its production and its title, make Lines in the Sand somewhat conspicuous with respect to any myth regarding war. Made in 2002, at a time when there was talk of a sequel to the first Gulf War, Jonas’ title cannot help but refer to the declaration of war President Bush the elder issued to Saddam Hussein for his invasion of Kuwait.

But above all else, Lines in the Sand is drop-dead poignant. The opening imagery of a woman’s elongated shadow is accompanied by a passage describing the desire to be liberated from the trappings of self. The words belong to anyone (Jonas, H.D, Helen) or everyone, craving emotional growth, a hunger that is inversely proportional to later scenes of Vegas’ endless rows of tract housing.

The Society’s presentation of Lines in the Sand will be accompanied by The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things, a work in progress. Taking its title from a line by H.D., and set in the American Southwest, The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things is the follow-up to Lines in the Sand, further exploring Jonas’ interest in working cross-culturally—this time taking an interest in art historian Aby Warburg’s 1895 trip to the Hopi reservation in Arizona as documented in his now famous account Images from the Region of the Pueblo Indians of North America.

Related Events

Opening Reception

Sunday, May 2, 4:00 - 7:00

featuring an artist talk from 5:00 to 6:00 pm in Cobb Hall Room 307(directly below the gallery) FREE


ensemble Integrale

Thursday, May 6, 8:00 pm


Since its founding in Hamburg, Germany over a decade ago, ensemble Integrale has gone on to become one of Europe’s premiere new music ensembles. For their Chicago debut, they will perform compositions by Burkhard Friedrich, Marko Ciciliani, Michael Maeirhof and Chicago composers Lou Mallozzi, and Jeff Kowolkowski. This concert will take place in the gallery.



Marina Peterson, cello, Brad Bordine, electronics

Tuesday, May 18, 8:00 pm


This sometimes Chicago, sometimes Los Angeles-based duet will be joined by an all-star cast featuring the likes of Jonathan Chen and Terri Kapsalis to perform Chicago Memory Spaces by Alvin Lucier, and John Cage’s Speech, 1955, for 5 radios and a newsreader. This concert will take place in the gallery.


Cristin Wildbolz

double bass solo

Sunday, May 23, 8:00 pm


“I hear with my eyes. my skin, my body. My movement, my posture generate the sound.” Cristin Wildbolz doesn’t play the double bass, she is the double bass. Come hear her roar! Her new project K9 +1 features nine compositions for double bass written by nine female composers from around the world. The acoustics of the gallery will make for an exceptionally dynamic performance. This concert will take place in the gallery.

Screening and Lecture

Through the Lens of Joan Jonas

Wednesday, June 9th & Thursday June 10th, 8:00 pm

Joan Jonas in discussion with Barbara Clausen


This pair of evenings is sure to be lively as it features screenings of Jonas’ videos alongside films and documentation of other work that has had a seminal influence on her career. These include works from classic experimental filmmakers such as Maya Deren to documentation of performances by Simone Forti, from Noh theater to Russian avant garde cinema. The first night will feature Jonas’ works through the early 1980s and the second night will run through the present. The screenings will be introduced by art historian Barbara Clausen followed by a discussion with Jonas. Cobb Hall Room 425 (down the hall from the gallery)
Last modified at 05:50 PM CST on Friday, May 07, 2004.

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