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Joan Jonas approaches video as a drawing tool, a mirror, and a framing device. Since 1968, she has used video and performance to explore ways of seeing, the rhythms of ritual, and the archetypal authority of objects and gestures. With her influential 1976 work, I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances) Jonas nimbly structures an elliptical narrative that unmistakably establishes her voice and visual lexicon. I Want to Live in the Country features two locations -- the untamed landscape of Nova Scotia and an artist's studio in New York City -- as it examines themes of loss, displacement, time, and memory through still life compositions and Super-8 footage. Jonas creates a meditation of frames within frames, monitors within monitors, overlaid with poetic musings -- a murmured story of the unconscious.
Jonas's influences have included the writing of Samuel Beckett, the films of Yasujiro Ozu, Japanese Noh theater, and the work of John Cage. Stripped down to intimate, indelible gestures, I Want to Live in the Country (And Other Romances) explores a Beckettian dilemma: "I am both the observer and the object that I observe. Which of the two is the real 'I'?" In this richly illustrated Afterall book, Susan Morgan examines the emergence of Jonas's original work from this synthesis of influences and ideas.