Barbara London interviewed by Glenn Wharton, May 22, 2019.
Barbara London was the founding curator of video and media art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York from 1973 to 2017. She is currently a curator, writer, and a professor at Yale University. London is a close friend to Joan Jonas and was the driving force behind MoMA’s acquisition of Mirage (1976) in 2007 and exhibitions revolving around the artist.
- “Barbara London interviewed by Glenn Wharton, May 22, 2019 (Interview Transcript).” Joan Jonas Knowledge Base, Artist Archives Initiative, 2021.
In this interview Barbara London discusses how she first encountered Jonas’s work and how the two of them formed a close relationship [00:40–02:15]. London goes on to discuss Jonas’s early works and what she was showing early on, along with Jonas’s undergraduate and graduate studies [02:17–05:08]. At [04:03], London talks about Jonas’s use of the mirror, observation, and identity and how they were very prominent in the artist’s early works. London also discusses her relationship with Jonas in more depth [05:11–06:58]. From here, London begins discussing the early works that she brought into MoMA and her interest in having Jonas in the collection, and what she represented [06:58–08:57]. London then backtracks to discuss seeing the performances Twilight and Mirror Check, and how Twilight evolved into Mirage the next year [09:30–11:03]. At [13:12] London begins talking about the parameters of bringing the Mirage installation into the collection at MoMA. From here, the acquisition process and Jonas’s involvement, her concerns, and the initial installation and her participation are discussed [14:26]. At [15:46] London mentions the creation of a platform for the hopscotch drawing; at [16:11] the creation of any new videos for MoMA’s acquisition is discussed, and at [16:25–18:19] London and Wharton begin discussing the monitors that were used and the other exhibition equipment. From monitors, the conversation turns to audio and being able to hear it from one part of the room to another [18:22–18:46]. From [18:47–20:29] London discusses other specifications such as light levels, room color, and if there were any benches in the room. Stepping away from installation specifications, the conversation then shifts to other works related to Mirage. London discusses one of Jonas’s My New Theater pieces and the departmental territories within the institution [20:57–22:45]. At [23:55], Wharton and London begin discussing whether or not Mirage has ever been loaned to another institution from MoMA and any concerns related to loaning the installation. As the interview begins to wrap up, London discusses the importance of context in Jonas’s work and how she draws from different sources [25:39–27:57]. On a final note, London mentions Jonas coming to MoMA on November 3, 1981 to give a Video Viewpoints presentation [28:15–29:14].