Mirror Piece I
Joan Jonas b. 1936, New York
Mirror Piece I
40 x 22 1/4 inches (101.6 x 56.5 cm)
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York Purchased with funds contributed by the Photography Committee, 2009
1969 Joan Jonas. Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Yvon Lambert Paris, New York
Beginning in the late 1960s, Joan Jonas created a groundbreaking series of works that established her as one of the pioneering forces in body art, performance, and video art. Undertaking a sustained examination of the process, politics, and psychology of spectatorship, Jonas adopted numerous strategies for complicating her audience’s relationship to her staged activities. She employed mirrors as props and structuring devices, separated performers and spectators by great physical distances, and eventually incorporated live video feeds that multiplied and fragmented viewers' perspectives of her actions. Mirror Piece I (1969) featured performers carrying oblong mirrors in slowly choreographed movements before the audience, alternately reflecting their own bodies and the surroundings, and offering the audience a flattened view of itself as an image within the performance. The photograph acquired by the Guggenheim Museum is a rare document of that work, shot by the artist herself. In it a single performer sits in the grass holding a mirror that fragments and replicates her body into an uncanny, almost Surrealist form. In both a literal and pictorial sense, Jonas denies the audience any position of stability from which to apprehend what lies before it.