Joan Jonas and the Object of Performance



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Performance art as a medium poses numerous difficulties to scholars and museum professions when trying to both study and preserve the works in question. The work itself is tied closely to a performer’s actions with respect to its setting and audience, which contributes to its ephemeral nature. People have worked to preserve these events, acts, and happenings through various means, including memory, photographic or filmic documentation, and physical remnants or by-products from the event; however, these pieces only provide a fragmented, disjointed image of a complex, multidimensional work.

To more closely analyze problems associated with performance art, I refer to Joan Jonas and several of her pieces to serve as a case study for the overarching problems associated with performance studies discussed in the thesis. Her work will enable one to see how the physical remnant connects to the whole act of the past event.

After analyzing her works and understanding how Jonas incorporated props and objects into her practice, I will address the residual prop’s potential to be displayed and serve as a reference point or remaining testimony to the artist’s original intent and action.



Joan Jonas, Performance Art, Preservation, Object, Prop, Ephemerality, Interpretive Archaeology, Display, Time-based Art