2018 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Arts and Philosophy

Arts(Painting, Sculpture, Craft, Architecture, Photography, Design, etc.)

Joan Jonas

/  Artist

1936 -

Professor Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Commemorative Lectures

In the Shadow a Shadow


11 /11 Sun

Place:Kyoto International Conference Center


Radicalism of Performance and Media Art—Joan Jonas and the Succession—


11 /14 Wed

Place:North Hall, ROHM Theatre Kyoto

Achievement Digest

An Artist Who Pioneered New Artistic Expression by Integrating Performance Art and New Media, Remaining at the Forefront of Contemporary Art for 50 Years

Ms. Jonas created a new artistic form by integrating performance art and video art, and has evolved her original medium at the forefront of contemporary art continuously. Creating labyrinth-like works that lead audiences to diverse interpretations, she hands down the legacy of 1960s avant-garde art by developing it into a postmodern framework, profoundly impacting artists of later generations.


In the early 1970s, Ms. Joan Jonas established a new artistic form by integrating performance art and video, and has since devoted her energies to evolving and adding sophistication to this form. Her remarkable achievements have earned an esteemed reputation and respect as a pioneer in the field of contemporary performance art and video art, and as an active artist who has been pursuing exciting relationships between performance art and new digital media.

After studying art history and sculpture, in the late 1960s Ms. Jonas built relationships with many artists in her native New York. After participating in workshops by Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs, who later became mythic figures in postmodern dance, Ms. Jonas was inspired to create her own original works based on body. From the 1970s onward, her works have featured a nonlinear structure without stories, with clear focus put on body and process, as well as diverse elements. Her remarkable long-term achievements also include her contributions in handing down the greatest legacy of 1960s avant-garde art represented by John Cage to future generations by developing it into a framework of postmodern art based on additive, diverse values.

Her Vertical Roll(1972), highly regarded as an archetype in the history of video art, integrated an actual performance with its real-time video screened on a TV monitor onstage. This work featured a revolutionary structure of coexistence of a live performance and its represented image, with a discrepancy in time and space between the audience’s viewpoints and camera angles, as well as the effect of electrical delay within the system. Since its release, the work has been studied and referred to by many artists. The masterpiece Reanimation(2010/2012/2013) in recent years, made with multiple layers of an endless series of diverse elements, is a labyrinth-like work filled with the nature and mythology of Iceland, along with drawings, sounds, and segments of her own earlier art. Ms. Jonas’ works contain a very contemporary narrative structure that encourages audiences to decode the works in their own original ways and achieve a wide variety of interpretations, including misinterpretations, rather than forcing them into a single prepared interpretation.

Since 1998 Ms. Jonas has also taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, winning respect as an educator of character, and has had an immeasurable impact on artists over subsequent generations.

For these reasons, the Inamori Foundation is pleased to present the 2018 Kyoto Prize in Arts and Philosophy to Ms. Joan Jonas.


Born in New York City, U.S.A.
B.F.A. in Art History, Mount Holyoke College
Studied sculpture at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Interacted with various artists such as Robert Raushenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Trisha Brown, John Cage, and so on.
M.F.A. in Sculpture, Columbia University
First public performance at St. Peter’s Church, New York
Began using video in performance
Professor, State Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart
Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Professor Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Represented the United States at the 56th Venice Biennale
Selected Awards and Honors
Maya Deren Award, American Film Institute
Lifetime Achievement Award, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
American Academy of Arts and Letters, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Selected Works
Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy (video performance)
Vertical Roll (video)
Mirage II (video)
Three Tales (installation)
Double Lunar Dogs (video performance)
Volcano Saga (video performance)
Lines in the Sand (performance + installation)
The Shape, the Scent, the Feel of Things (performance + installation)
Reanimation (performance + installation)
They Come to Us without a Word (performance + installation)
Stream or River, Flight or Pattern (installation)

Profile is at the time of the award.