Joan Jonas

Left Side Right Side


Left Side Right Side
Artist / Artist group
Joan Jonas
Left Side Right Side
video, Analog video
Material / Technique
Betacam SP, b/w, mono
Dimensions / Duration
ZKM | Zentrum für Kunst und Medien

In this early work, Joan Jonas, who is considered one of the pioneers of performance-based video art, explores the properties of the video medium and relates them to her own body and mirror images.

At the beginning, the artist can be seen in a close-up view pointing her index finger at her right and left eye while saying, “This is my right eye, this is my left eye.” The challenge for the viewer begins at the moment when the image is split and a monitor with Jonas appears. Other layers are added – a pointing hand that seems to come from the front and the examination of the side aspects of her face in a hand mirror. Confusing interchanges of left and right result.

Around the middle of the video work, the structure of the work becomes recognizable in rudiments and allows orientation: a camera films the artist and transfers this image directly to a monitor. A second camera films the monitor and mirror, which are opposite the artist. During the video, direct shots of Jonas alternate with shots of the monitor and mirror. Further on in the video, Jonas paints nonrepresentational signs on a blackboard, writes “sun” and “moon” on a sheet of paper, paints her face, and in the last third of the video shows this face in different poses while she turns the light on and off.

Jonas plays with the ambiguity of mirror inverted and noninverted images, repeatedly relating these different levels to the spatiality of her body as well as to the indexical function of language, which refers to something else. The result is a challenging game of inversions that illustrate the complexity of the appearances of mirrors and the medium of film in a very ingenious, analogous way.

Author: Anna-Maria Drago Jekal

About the artist/s