Joan Jonas: Sun Signals is the first exhibition in Australia devoted to the work of video and performance art pioneer, Joan Jonas. Bringing together various disciplines – ranging from performance, video and sculpture to sound, drawing and installation – the New York artist’s boundary-crossing approach has had a profound impact on generations of artists.
Sun Signals presents a selection of Jonas’ single-channel videos from 1968–1976, focusing on her early productions and explorations of time, space and self-representation. Through an iterative treatment of movement, mirroring and sound, each work builds on the previous one as PICA’s Central Gallery is transformed into a chamber of unfolding gestures and cyclical compositions.
Jonas’ reputation as ‘the digital sorceress’ resonates with the maternal principles of Ngaangk – the overarching theme of the Perth Festival 2024. Ngaangk refers to sun and mother in the language of the Noongar people who are the traditional custodians of the land on which the city of Perth now stands.
Sun Signals takes its name from an action depicted in the recently restored 16mm film Songdelay (1973) where Jonas uses a mirror to reflect sunlight into the eyes of the audience. Amongst other works, the exhibition also features the rare double projection of Mirage (1976) and Mirage II (1976/2000) where the artist repeatedly traces and erases drawings on a blackboard, including symbols for a storm, a rainbow, the sun and moon.
Sun Signals is accompanied by the live performance of Jonas’ iconic work Mirror Piece I & II (1969-70/2024) on Saturday 10 February. This 30-minute work takes place in PICA’s Central Gallery with 15 local performers carrying life-size mirrors in which they create an immersive scene of moving imagery. Guided by the hands of women, the performance is a reclaiming of the mirror as a powerful tool for female self-representation.