Sunday, August 16, 2015

Jonas' Reading Dante

Even as we are engaged in a slow reading* of parts of the Purgatorio in preparation for tackling the Paradiso, we can rest assured that what it means to read will forever be an open question.

For several years, the American artist Joan Jonas, whose work is part of the U.S. exhibit at this year's Biennale in Venice, has been working on a series of performative pieces entitled Reading Dante.

In an interview with Art Forum, she drew a parallel between Dante and Aby Warburg:
In my mind, Dante connects to Aby Warburg, who was central to my last large-scale work of this kind, The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things. Both had an overarching worldview. Dante thought epically during a moment—the medieval era—when people were very isolated, and Warburg attempted to synthesize widely disparate cultures through the lens of art history. For me, they both represent characters that are on a journey through life that involves thinking about the world as a whole, not just what’s immediately around them.
Jonas, Reading Dante

According to a gallery where the work was performed, Jonas is continually revising:
Reading Dante IV draws inspiration from Dante's fourteenth-century Divine Comedy, a reoccurring topos of Jonas's work since 2007. Each performance and installation becomes increasingly layered as the work transforms and develops.
Reading Dante becomes an act of translation:
Jonas translates the medieval allegory, borrowing small fragments of the text and greatly reinterpreting the story through performance, sound, drawings, video and installation. The artist dynamically visualizes the journey of the characters, merging their experience with her own through footage of travels and performance. Galleria Raffaella Cortese.
In another interview (in frieze), Jonas says:
Dante separated heaven, purgatory and hell but I don’t believe in such a separation. One aspect, though, that interested me is the fact that Dante was the first writer to write using vernacular Italian so I want to record lots of different people reading Dante.
With a work so rich as Dante's, the acts of translation are unending, as are the many varieties and forms its reading can assume.

Jonas, Reading Dante

video clip

Diverse images, Jonas Galleria Raffaella Cortese

*slow reading

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