Joan Jonas @ Tate Modern
Emoji summary: 👅〰📂
The new tate Modern is too big. I know it’s not New new, like it’s New-ish but this was the first time i’d been there kinda in a rush or with an Expressed Purpose™ & T B H,, it is just too big. This is my hot take. I don’t like having to go up and down all those stairs, the corridor with one million lifts that are always full of raging tourists and old white people, i don’t LIKE IT, it makes the space stressful and u know u know that being in the tate is already stressful enough.
This isn’t me j complaining for the sake of it. This has Intent and Purpose. I say this bc when I went to go see the Joan Jonas retrospective, it was the 14th::: the first day it opened to the public. It was kinda a Day for the show, a friend of mine works at the Tate and when I saw her she said Joan was walking around the building, she had a small dog with her, can’t miss her. But on the 3rd floor of the old wing, on that same day were members’ only events for the Massive Fuck-Off Picasso show and the Massive Fuck-Off Modigliani show. They r on the same floor in the old wing, facing each other, white male giants,,, legs spread,, pissing heavy streams, the streams arc and fall; a fountain show for all the family. I was sad, it had a vibe and the vibe was explicitly clear: these r our two big shows, they r bringing in the $£$£, Joan felt like an afterthought of sorts, relegated to the new wing which was significantly less busy, more empty of people, noise, and fuss. i felt sad about it; it felt pointed. I wish it wasn’t that way. i wish she’d had her moment without that there.
That perceived (by me) snub aside, this show was good. I will say, i didn’t rly know Joan Jonas’ work too well before this show. As u walk in, the 2nd room in, there’s a room off the back of that with a work in; an installation called the Juniper Tree >>>. I wish i’d seen that when I was in 2nd year at uni. If i was still making art in an intensive concentrated way like that, as a student, that room would’ve shook me and grabbed me. My reaction now, as someone who kinda plops out art every so often like a chicken laying eggs, was shaken slightly, but mostly just happy enjoyment. I was enjoying the work as an artist(ish) and a critic(ish). I felt fulfilled by that work holistically, it was a warm embrace. It felt like a good outfit; well balanced, measured and weighted to find that sweet spot on the eye/body,,, a good aesthetic sensibility (idk what sensibility rly officially means, but i like using it as a kinda extension of intuition - intuition honed by consistent listening to it,,, when ur used to the sound of ur gut and u follow it bc it speaks clearly to u.))))) - - sensibility - an eloquent gut.
This was a Retrospective. The rooms were themed, and beautiful. Little bubbles, packaged up and complete; but not boring. They weren’t curated into dullness. They were Art still, the aesthetic weight n feel was still important n urgent - bc i guess they were themed by aesthetic flexx rather than time period? The organisation of it all, now i think about it, treated practice as a living breathing thing capable of creating themed or foldered bubbles - - works that sit closer to particular others than they do to other other works by the same artist. Everything as a flatlay with a Place;;; horizontally making and being in conversation with itself (kind of, i think maybe halfway to doing this fully). - - this feels like a jumbled thought, i’ve said this badly. What I think i mean is, i don’t typically like retrospectives. It feels like a format reserved for artists i don’t particularly care about, or by the time they come around it’s a historical thing, we have to cast our minds back to when collage was radical, stretch our imaginations. This retrospective didn’t feel like a stretch. It felt maybe dated in some ways, but in terms of aesthetics, space, voice, form,,,, still relevant n useful n there was a conscious effort or feeling of that effort, to make things look the way they were intended to look. something i feel that w retrospectives, gets lost to the glass cabinets and timeline of it all, all the little slips of paper no one rly looks at. It felt like a show that would be a good reference for someone u know, bc it feels like ppl r still grappling w and making around the same space as this. n that was a nice thing to feel in a retrospective. the presence n weight of an artists legacy,,, that history n body of work all laid out across the rooms;;;; but balanced with a foot on the neck of what we see across other gallery spaces n creative practices;’;;’; Something Not Completely Historical.
I will say that i thought it was strange that half the exhibition u had to pay for,,,, but another half (a bonus round) was downstairs in the Tanks; A HALF AN HOUR WALK AWAY T B Q H B T W. i think i liked the feeling of the stuff in the Tanks a bit more. Like the format and tone of voice of it all. Whereas the stuff upstairs was great and beautiful, but still quite formal;; the stuff in the Tanks had taken off its bra for the night, sunk into a sofa. When above ^^ i mentioned that retrospective feel but contemporary, that only applies to the paid bit. The free half in the Tanks was just fully some art made today, by a still working creative practitioner; no historicising needed or involved. which was nice to see, and felt like an important characteristic for the show to have considering the Massive Fuck-Off Pissing Contest of the Picasso and Modigliani. Jonas’ work might not have the weight of those white men when it comes to value in Sotheby’s or how many white old ppl can rattle off dates about ur life and ur ‘post-war productivity’;,;,; but it felt urgent still, something I am not convinced applies to The Boys. As a place to rest and leave this review on; i will say that all the wall texts were written in the first person, i assume by Jonas herself. It seems like a small thing, kinda unimportant or like,,, gimmicky. But it did change the way i felt the space. It reinforced that feeling of Retrospective, But Not As You Know It; it endeared me to the space n i was so much more immediately invested in the work I was seeing bc i was hearing the artist talk about what was important to them rather than the normal Tate wall text which speaks to no one, about no one, never makes eye contact n delivers their words over ur head. i think that choice, resting on that as an end point for this review, i think it sums up how i felt about this show quite well. I respected the choices of it all, and on top of that, i enjoyed being in the gallery space; i learnt something. n i am quite unteachable most of the time.
Joan Jonas' show is on at the Tate Modern till the 5th August. It is a ticketed exhibition, so grab a friend's Member's card or finesse it if u can; or if u book in advance it's £11(£10 conc.) or go during the next Tate Late n it'll be £10. but tbh j boz a card n take ur mate. this is a good show to see with someone rather than on ur own. i think it's a good show to have someone to chat about ur thoughts n feelings with. And also roll ur eyes at the Turbine Hall Superflex thing with. art is better in pairs <3.