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Joan Jonas, b.1936

Woman in the Well1996

Joan Jonas stayed in Dublin in the 1990s, preparing for her first European retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam “Works 1968-1994: A Retrospective”. During her stay she was introduced to Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, one of the most celebrated writers in the Irish language. Ní Dhomhnaill had recently written a speculative essay titled ‘Mis and Dubh Ruis: A Parable of Psychic Transformation’ and gave Jonas an English translated copy of the tale. Mis, the protagonist of the poem, loses her mind following the death of her chieftain father in battle. She becomes a fearsome wild creature who lays waste to the lands around her and kills all warriors sent to subdue her. The story of Mis particularly appealed to Jonas due to its blend of humour and eroticism. Jonas adapted Ní Dhomhnaill’s poem into a soundtrack for Woman in the Well (1996/2000). 

The main component of the installation is a traditional wishing well. At the bottom, a monitor shows footage of a woman performing several actions under water, while repeatedly returning the viewer’s gaze. Text and image are deliberately disjunctive and reflect, as Jonas put it: ‘A process in which a story from one source or culture comes into contact with another and is caught, separated from origin and altered.’

MediumMulti-component work including video installation, audio installation, objects.
Dimensions Dimensions variable
Item NumberACQ.2023.JJ.001
Copyright Image © the artist | Joan Jonas, Spring Well (Transformation of a Story), 1996, Rosamund Felsen Gallery, Santa Monica, California, 1996. Photo by Douglas M. Parker Studio. Image courtesy Joan Jonas Studio and Amanda Wilkinson Gallery
For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
Image Caption
Joan Jonas, Woman in the Well, 1996, Multi-component work including video installation, audio installation, objects., Dimensions variable, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].

About the Artist

Joan Jonas b.1936

Joan Jonas is a world-renowned artist whose work encompasses a wide range of media including video, performance, installation, sound, text, and sculpture.
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