Derek Jarman and Joan Jonas
L’Orée du Songe/The Shore of Dreaming
The writer Roger Caillois, whose collection of stones is housed at the Musée nationale d’histoire naturelle, Paris, called stones of all kinds l’orée du songe, the shore of dreaming. In her video Begin Again, 2006, Joan Jonas discusses the collection of heart- and dog-shaped stones she has gathered over the years from the shores of Cape Breton where she spends her summers, stones she often uses in her performances and installations. Derek Jarman built his famous garden in Dungeness on a shore covered with stones, which he selectively gathered and re-used in that garden as well as in the sculptures and paintings he made in his studio at Prospect Cottage. This shared activity points to these artists’ profound interest in the natural world, which is the focus of this presentation. Rather than directly referencing the landscape, the sea, or the creatures that inhabit both, these artists approach the subject obliquely through allusions to nature’s alchemy, to its magical and transformative properties.
In 2019 Joan Jonas presented the performance and installation Moving Off the Land as the inaugural exhibition at Ocean Space in Venice in collaboration with TBA21. The Ocean Drawings in this presentation were made during that performance. Following three years of research into the significance of the ocean, this performance celebrates the creatures below the sea, both honouring their otherness and acknowledging our reliance on the sea and everything held within it. Painted in ink using a long stick, Jonas’s fish paintings are the result of a performative action of mark-making, a ritualistic expression of reverence for the beautiful creatures she discovered.
The presentation also includes drawings from the performance of Reanimation at the Musée du Louvre, Paris, 2014. This work was inspired by Halldór Laxness’s 1968 novel Under the Glacier, in which a man investigates paranormal activity around a glacier. Jonas was intrigued by the passages recounting sublime images of the Icelandic landscape. The Reanimation (Bird Drawings) were made on a desk under a camera which simultaneously projected the process of their making onto a large screen in front of the audience. Jonas’s hand moved with rhythmic gestures producing drawings of numerous birds, each with their own uncanny expression. In the same performance she made the chalk landscape drawings, her hand tracing projected images of the icy landscape, producing drawings that derived from the original image, but were generated through Jonas’s ceremonious mark-making.
The paintings by Derek Jarman presented here were made during his time in Dungeness 1987 –1994, where he created his famous garden, defying the challenges of a dry and salty landscape that made it very difficult for plants to grow. The small, intensely coloured landscape paintings were made in the studio at Prospect Cottage in 1991/2 at a point when the garden was at its zenith. As with Jonas’s landscape drawings, these tiny paintings do not directly depict the landscape, but rather reflect its colours and textures, celebrating the healing process he felt whilst watching the garden evolve. The black paintings, from a series also made at the cottage, include objects gathered from the beach or from his travels. Using gold leaf to transform raw objects, or smashing glass on the thick black surface, the making of these paintings became his own private ritual. The surfaces were often engraved with fragments of text, leaving coded references to his eventful and complex life. The presentation includes an online screening of Jarman’s super 8 film My Very Beautiful Movie (Final Version)1974, filmed at Fire Island beach on Long Island during a visit to New York (courtesy LUMA Foundation). The seductive images of the rolling sea and broken horizons offer an uncanny precursor to his later works made in Dungeness.
The two large paintings by Derek Jarman Acid Rain, 1992 and Oh Zone, 1992 are from a series that featured slogans scratched across the surface. These paintings were made in the final years of his life and reflected his ferocious anger at the politics of the time with regard to the demonisation of the queer community during the AIDS pandemic, while also registering his prophetic concern about the planet.
to whom it may concern
in the dead stones of a planet
no longer remembered as earth
may he decipher this opaque hieroglyph
perform an archaeology of soul
on these precious fragments
all that remains of our vanished days
here – at the sea’s edge
Derek Jarman, Modern Nature 1989
With thanks to Keith Collins Will Trust, Donna Marcus Duke, Joan Jonas, LUMA Foundation and James Mackay
Filmed at Fire Island beach on Long Island during his 1974 visit to the US, My Very Beautiful Movie evokes a distant epoch, one of liberation and sunshine. The setting is remarkably similar to that in some of his earlier paintings – a figure in a landscape made of strong uprights and clear horizons. A dance, almost a ritual, plays out against the rolling sea. The film was shot mainly in black and white and a glass prism was used whilst re-filming the image to add colour and distortion.The film, designated ‘Final Version’ by Jarman to distinguish it from the slightly earlier film of the same name, is presented here with a new music track composed by Jarman’s long standing collaborator Simon Fisher Turner. - James Mackay
Courtesy & © Luma Foundation
Music courtesy & © Simon Fisher Turner
Begin Again (2006) consists of a series of small moments, beginning in my studio in Cape Breton: I wear masks, set up still lifes, and draw images from my collection of found images of animals, pyramids, and other things for the camera. Parts of the video were shot on my porch. One shows me arranging a pile of driftwood in different ways, and then manipulating wood to make a rattling sound. The final scene was shot in the late afternoon, the sun casting a long shadow of the tripod and camera towards me. I start talking to the camera about a young man’s funeral I had gone to that afternoon, which reminded me of my mother, who had died not long before. I talk about the way she had collected heart-shaped stones as I show the stones I have collected to the camera. Throughout the video you hear a soundtrack of Canadian radio (CBC). At the end, against distorted mirror reflections of my dog Zina, Kate Fenner sings a French folk song. This video was made for my mother. - Joan Jonas
Derek Jarman — Through the Billboard Promised Land Without Ever Stopping
Published here for the very first time, Through the Billboard Promised Land Without Ever Stopping is Derek Jarman’s only piece of narrative fiction. Written in 1971, it is a surreal, fabular, lyrical work – a literary fairytale acid-trip road movie hybrid – the energies and details of which influenced much of his later work across media.
The richly poetic story, a cinematic prose quest, tracks the journey of a blind young King and his valet, disguised as beggars, who set out in no particular direction and with no particular purpose. Departing from Fargo, across the frontier of Movietown, along the Superhighway and picnicking on the Lawns of Paradise, they encounter vivid characters like Pierrot, Borgia Ginz and Topaz, an Emperor who ‘smiles with the art of mirrors’, as well as a Sphinx with ‘Silence is Golden’ written in her eyes.
The story serves as a foundational text, laying out many of the themes, images and styling of Jarman’s work in painting, film and design whilst also being haunted by the then emerging ecological crisis in its juxtaposition of the beauty of nature with the reckless consumption of modernity.
This edition features facsimile images of the story’s handwritten drafts from Jarman’s archive, a link to an exclusive audio recording of Jarman himself reading the story in full, and is comprehensively informed by a vivid foreword from Philip Hoare, a deeply researched afterword by Jarman scholar Declan Wiffen, and a warm memoir by the artist Michael Ginsborg, a close friend of Jarman’s throughout the period of the story’s writing.
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Moving Off the Land: A New Illustrated Monograph Chronicling the Process of Artist Joan Jonas
“We actually did come out of the oceans, it is not a myth. For me, it is very important to realize that. It’s almost impossible to think about how we are not separate from the ocean.”
– Joan Jonas
Hero to generations of younger artists, Joan Jonas’s unique form of storytelling explores the critical state of the environment with a particular focus on the ocean. The new publication, Joan Jonas: Moving Off the Land, closely follows her process in developing the multiformat project Moving Off the Land; from the first lecture-demonstration at Vasco da Gama Square in Kochi, India (2016) to the eponymous exhibition and performance that inaugurated TBA21–Academy’s Ocean Space in Venice, Italy, in 2019. A newly-published monograph, Moving Off the Land, encompasses three years of Jonas’s research into the significance of the ocean throughout histories as a totemic, spiritual, and cultural reference.
The monograph provides unique access to the complete script for the performance Moving Off the Land, along with annotations, accompanied by mesmerising images of Jonas’s live performance at Ocean Space as well as a complete chronology with visuals of the performance’s evolving history.
Ute Meta Bauer, the curator of Jonas’s acclaimed presentation at the 2015 U.S. Pavilion of the 56th Venice Biennale, edited this richly illustrated publication, presenting research materials that Jonas collected over many years. It exemplifies Jonas’s interest in the sea and its vast diversity of life forms, intertwined with moving images contributed by theoceanographer David Gruber and footage filmed in aquariums around the world and during an artist residency in Port Antonio, Jamaica.
Moving Off the Land provides insight into Jonas’s artistic practice and methodology of combining drawings and video footage with found images, poetry, and prose by writers such as Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville, and texts by nature writers Rachel Carson and Sy Montgomery. The foreword by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza and preface by Markus Reymann embed the project in the research practice of TBA21 and TBA21–Academy. A conversation between Jonas, Bauer and Stefanie Hessler, the curator of the exhibition “Moving Off the Land II” at Ocean Space, unpacks the genesis of the project and how the artist explores environmental concerns while highlighting the intelligence and beauty of nonhuman creatures that cohabit our world.
Originally commissioned by TBA21–Academy in 2016 as a lecture-demonstration, Moving Off the Land was presented in parallel to the 2016 Kochi-Muziris Biennale in India. The initial version was further developed as part of TBA21’s live series Ephemeropteræ in Vienna and during Sequences VIII in Reykjavík in 2017; and evolved to a performance that was presented at Tate Modern, London and Danspace Project, New York in 2018; at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francisco and Ocean Space, Venice in 2019; and at the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid in 2020.
“Moving Off the Land grew and mutated over time, as Jonas added layer after layer to it. It was unbelievable to see all these elements come together: the films and videos, the animations, the performances, the young actors, children reading poetry, the old fishermen, the aquariums, the drawings, the paintings, even my favorite spot on Alligator Head, her fascination with mermaids—it was just overwhelming. It fills me with so much joy to bring the performance back to life in the pages of this book and to be able to share this magnificent and urgent work with a wider audience.” – Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza
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Joan Jonas: Moving Off the Land Edited by Ute Meta Bauer Commissioned by TBA21–Academy 272 pages
17 x 24 cm
Design by Mono.Studio, Berlin