Moving Off the Land IV is framed inside the work of Joan Jonas with greater concerns over questions related to ecology, an exchange of resources, the co-existence between species and the post-human condition of our projected/imagined future. The installation, inspired by the writings of Emily Dickinson and Herman Melville, as well as the underwater images of marine biologist David Gruber, brings together contemporary and mythological narratives to hammer home the need to urgently rethink the environmental crisis the planet faces.
The focus on nature, oceans’ biodiversity and the importance of a balanced ecosystem is a line of work that has extended across the breadth of Joan Jonas’s oeuvre, stretching back to the 1960s, when her artistic practice began to expand beyond the limits of traditional disciplines and opened out to others such as dance, music and theatre.
Moving Off the Land IV is the result of a study of oceans conducted in Jamaican waters, where the proliferation of algae and over-fishing pose a threat to the environment, and in aquariums all over the world. Thus, the piece sees Jonas reconfigure the components of conventional performance — including moving images, sets, props and other imagery — to submerge us in an underwater journey and situate us at the same level as other oceanic creatures, such as dolphins, sperm whales and octopuses, a motif in many of the artist’s audiovisual interventions. The installation is completed with a series of mirrors — heavily present, on account of their symbolism, in her works, and in this instance helping to recreate the surface of water — and illustrations of marine species Jonas draws live during her performances.