- Joan Jonas, Archive of Organic Honey, 1972–1980 (2005 installation version). Photographs, drawings, posters, photographic contact prints, notebooks, and unedited video footage from the artist’s personal archive.
- Joan Jonas, Archive of Organic Honey, 1972–80 (2016 installation version). Photographs, drawings, posters, and photographic contact prints from the artist’s personal archive with five additional video components: Duet (1972), Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972), Vertical Roll (1972), Richard Serra’s Anxious Automation (1971), and Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll (1973–99).
Joan Jonas’s archive of Organic Honey includes numerous materials collected between 1972 and 1980, which reflect the project’s several variations. This varied selection of drawings, posters, and photographic contact prints also includes performance scripts, sketches, five video works, several hours of unedited video material, and more than one-hundred photographic prints. These materials, which remain a part of Jonas’s personal archives, offer insight into process-based performance art, its relationship to new technologies, and its iterative qualities. Using a live camera feed, mirrors, monitors, costumes, and props including masks, drawings, and repetitive soundscapes, Jonas created reflective and altered spaces—ones that anticipated the increasingly complex and decentralized role of the art object, the spectator, and archetypal narratives. Not only does Jonas’s archive help to map the development of the interconnected elements that comprise the Organic Honey project, it sheds light onto a genre-defining practice that remains deeply connected to perceptions of space, time, and the female psyche.
To date, the archive has been presented twice, once in Vienna (2005) and a second time in Montreal (2016). The two installations of the Organic Honey archive were curated by Barbara Clausen and based on research she conducted over the course of a decade researching Organic Honey.
The following text is an edited excerpt from Clausen’s “Performing the Archive and Exhibiting the Ephemeral,” in A History of Performance Documentation, edited by Gabriella Giannachi and Johan Westerman (London: Routledge, 2017), 97–98:
The Organic Honey series was performed over a dozen times between the early 1970s and early 1980s and continues to have an afterlife as a series of videos, a multimedia installation owned by the Stedelijk Museum, and in the form of an installation-based presentation of the artist’s archive, Organic Honey Archive, consisting of over a hundred documentary and staged photographs, notebooks, and hours of unedited video footage that continue to accumulate over time. Presented twice, once in 2005 in Vienna and a second time in 2016 in Montreal, these curated presentations of Jonas’s archive typify the significance of the archive to the institutionalization of performance art.[i]
While clearly identified as an personal archive and not as an artwork, the presentation of the materials in 2005 as part of a group exhibition differed from its display in 2016 when it was part of the artist’s retrospective. Despite the similarly chronological hanging order, the second rendition invited the visitor to question the status of the installation as an archive in relation to the artwork. This shift of the status of an archive of documentary sources on display in relation to the latest, more staged setting is detectable in three instances: firstly, the uniformity of the framing aesthetics of the photographs; secondly, the choice of the grey wall color so emblematic for Jonas’s installations and a decision by the artist that was aligned with other installations on view; and thirdly, the contextualization of the archive with the single-channel videos—Duet (1972), Vertical Roll (1972), Organic Honey’s Visual Telepathy (1972), as well as Richard Serra’s Anxious Automation (1971)—that are part of the performance and the installation. These video works were situated in relation to the edited documentary footage of the performance in the video Organic Honey’s Vertical Roll (1973–99), as well as the photographs, posters, drawings, and scripts. The first installation in 2005, which was part of a group show, included three reels of unedited footage shot in 1972 at Leo Castelli Gallery but none of the single-channel art videos related to the corpus of this oeuvre. The 2005 installation also included two vitrines with the artist’s original notebooks and drawings, which were not presented in the more recent installation in 2016. These two different display versions of Jonas’s archival materials exemplify how the transition from document to artifact unfolds through the act of exhibiting. These developments and ongoing processes inherent to performance’s historicization eventually will lead the Organic Honey Archive to become an accompanying extension or even part of the multi-media installation of the work itself.
Clausen, Barbara. “After the Act: The (Re)Presentation of Performance Art.” In After the Act: The (Re)Presentation of Performance Art, edited by Nina Krick and Barbara Clausen, 7–20. Vienna: MUMOK Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, 2006.
Clausen, Barbara. “Performing the Archive and Exhibiting the Ephemeral.” In A History of Performance Documentation, edited by Gabriella Giannachi and Johan Westerman, 93–114. London: Routledge, 2017.
For further reading, see Organic Honey Bibliography.
Exhibitions and Installation Views
- After the Act. The (Re)Presentation of Performance Art, curated by Barbara Clausen, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig (MUMOK), Vienna, November 4–December 4, 2005. (Installation Views)
- Joan Jonas: From Away, curated by Barbara Clausen, Phi Foundation for Contemporary Art, Montreal, April 28–September 9, 2016. (Installation Views)
- Interview with Barbara Clausen (independent curator and professor of art history at UQAM, Montreal), August 2020