Gillian Young interviewed by Barbara Clausen, Kristin Poor, and Tracy Robinson, September 17, 2020
Gillian Young is Assistant Professor of Art History at Wofford College. Her research focuses on intertwining histories of art, technology, and performance since the nineteenth century. Her current project examines Joan Jonas’s integral role in the dual emergence of video and performance art in the 1970s. This interview focuses on Young’s teaching and research that explore Jonas’s relationship with media.
- “Gillian Young interviewed by Barbara Clausen, Kristin Poor, and Tracy Robinson, September 17, 2020 (Interview Transcript).” Joan Jonas Knowledge Base, Artist Archives Initiative, 2021.
The interview begins with Young describing her first encounter with Jonas’s work, when she saw Songdelay, Jonas’s film version of the 1972 performance Delay Delay, at a Triple Canopy Screening [00:00–01:31]. Young then describes how Jonas’s work has played a role in her own writing and teaching, as she believes Jonas has been obscured by a blind spot emerging from art history’s conventional separation of video art and performance art histories [01:37–04:31]. From here, Young speaks about her PhD dissertation, which argued for a consideration of Jonas as a media archaeologist based on the artist’s use of outdated media and technology [04:32–08:13]. The conversation then focuses on ways in which Jonas’s piece Organic Honey has played a role in Young’s writing on visual telepathies and her argument about telepresence [08:21–10:54]. Young also discusses the feminist implications of Organic Honey and the layered enigmatic figure of Organic Honey [10:55–14:33]. Circling back to technology, Young answers questions regarding Jonas’s relationships to other artists who were working at the same moment and whether or not Jonas could be considered an outlier [14:38–18:39].
Moving on to installations, Young reflects on Jonas’s pieces that have been transferred from performance into installations (such as Mirage and Organic Honey) and how telepathing and other themes can transfer from one medium to another. Young also references Jonas’s Stage Sets installation at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 1976 and her 1980 retrospective at the Berkeley Museum of Art [18:44–26:27]. The conversation then turns to the camera person’s role in Organic Honey and how it fits into Young’s thinking about telepathy and telepresence in media [26:32–31:29]. Next, Young speaks about Jonas’s use of narrative and the influence of myth and imagist poetry in particular. She links Jonas’s performances to theater generally and explores some of their particular relationships to experimental theater, especially during the seventies [31:31–39:53]. The discussion then focuses on fluidity in Jonas’s definition of gender and narratives of gender that she draws out in Juniper Tree, Glass Puzzle and Organic Honey [39:55–45:27]. The interview ends with Young providing thoughts and advice for future curators and museum workers who want to restage and exhibit Jonas’s work [45:45–48:55].