BORN IN 1936 in NYC

1965 Master of Fine Art, Columbia University, New York
1958 Bachelor of Arts, Art History and Sculpture, Mount Holyoke College
1958-61 School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
Lives and works in New York City, teaches at MIT


Can you imagine having a 14 page CV?




Joan Jonas
Vertical Roll


"Vertical Roll is another case where time has been forces to enter the video situation, and where that time is understood as a propulsion toward and end. In this work access to a sense of time has come from fouling the stability of the projected image by desynchronizing the frequencies of the signals on a camera and monitor. The rhythmic roll of the image, as the bottom of its frame scans upward to hit the top of the screen, causes a sense of decomposition that seems to work against the grain of those 525 lines of which the video picture is made. Because one recognizes it as intended, the vertical roll appears as the agency of a will that runs counter to an electronically stabilized condition. Through the effect of its constant wiping away of the image, one has a sense of a reflexive relation to the video grid and the ground or support for what happens to the image.

Out of this is born the subjects of Vertical Roll, which visualizes time as the course of a continuous dissolve through space. In it a sequence of images and action are seen from different positions-both in terms of the camera's distance and its orientation to a horizontal ground. With the ordinary grammar of both film and video these shifts would have to be registered either by camera movement (in which the zoom is included as one possibility) or by cutting. And while it is true that Jonas has had to use these techniques in making Vertical Roll, the constant sweep of the image renders these movements invisible. That is, grammar of the camera is eroded by the dislocating grip of the roll. As I have said, the illusion this creates is one of a continuous dissolve through time and space. The monitor, as an instrument, seems to be winding into itself a ribbon of experience, like a fishing line being taken up upon a reel, or like magnetic tape being wound upon a spool. The motion of a continuous dissolve becomes, then, a metaphor for the physical reality not only of the scan lines of the video raster, but of the physical reality of the tape deck, whose reels objectify a finite amount of time.

Earlier, I described the paradigm situation of video as a body centered between the parenthesis of camera and monitor. Due to Vertical Roll's visual reference through he monitor's action to the physical reality of the tape, one side of this parenthesis is made more active than the other. The monitor side of the double bracket becomes a reel through which one feels prefigured the imminence of a goal or terminus for the motion. That end is reached when Jonas, who has ben preforming the action recoded on the tape, from within the coils of the camera/monitor circuit, breaks through the parenthetical closure of the feedback situation to face the camera directly-without the agency of the monitor's rolling image."
-Rosalind Krauss The Aesthetics of Narcissism

In this well-known early tape, Jonas manipulates the grammar of the camera to create the sense of a grossly disturbed physical space. The space functions as a metaphor for the unstable identity of the costumed and masked female figure roaming the screen, negotiating the rolling barrier of the screen's bottom edge.

"[Making] use of a jarring rhythmic technique to develop a sense of fragmentation, Vertical Roll uses a common television set malfunction of the same name to establish a constantly shifting stage for the actions that relate both to the nature of the image and to the artist's projected psychological state."

—David Ross, "Joan Jonas's Videotapes" in Joan Jonas: Scripts and Descriptions, 1968-1982, ed. Douglas Crimp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983)