Born in New York in 1936, Jonas studied art history and sculpture at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts and later in Boston and New York. In 1964 she began working in the field of performance art and came into contact with the city's minimal artists. From 1967 to 1969 she was associated with the world of dance and took part in workshops with Trisha Brown and Ivonne Rainer. Her video-performances Organic Honey's Vertical Roll and Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy date from 1972. Joan Jonas uses mirrors, masks, and costumes in her works to reflect the field of tensions between authenticity and social determinism, as well as the totality and fragmentation of her own experience as a woman. Jonas lives and works in New York. She took part in Documenta in 1977, 1982 and 2002, and has been the subject of numerous major retrospectives.
The video Organic Honey's Visual Telepathy is based on Jonas' 1972 performance of the same name, the first in which she used video as a medium for recording and as a closed circuit. As part of the live event, Jonas performs for the camera in a dialogue transmitted simultaneously on a monitor and projected on the stage, thereby extending the performance space to the virtual space of the electronic image.
In an enigmatic ritual of identity, Jonas performs as herself and as her masked double, Organic Honey. Dressed in diaphanous dresses, wearing a head-dress and jewellery, Organic Honey is the embodiment of artifice, masquerade and narcissism (a female alter-ego dressed up as a doll), contrasted with the neutrally dressed gender of the working woman. This elliptical, non-narrative performance explores themes that are emblematic of Joan Jonas' early video work: the study of female gestures and archetypes, both personal and cultural; the use of disguise and masquerade, ritual objects and ritualised self-examination; and an inquiry into subjectivity and objectivity. The work's formal elements – the layering of mirrors and mirrored images, manipulations of reflective space and spatial ambiguity, and the use of drawing to add a further layering of meaning – are also Jonas' signatures.