Oscillating between semiotics, pictorialism and theatrics, Joan Jonas integrates ritual and symbolic elements into her hybrid vocabulary, where gestures are the object of reflection. The performance Lines in the Sand (2002), commissioned by Documenta 11, took place after the installation had been set up, which added new dimensions to the work. Both performance and installation are based on the epic poem Helen in Egypt (1951–55), where the Imagist poet and writer H.D. (Hilda Doolittle, patient of Sigmund Freud before the World War II) revises the myth of Helen of Troy. In H.D.’s poem, based on classic texts, as well as in Jonas’s work, the epic war of Troy was not fought for an unfaithful Helen, but rather for less prosaic reasons, such as commercial routes and access to the Black Sea. Jonas explores the interconnected threads of myth, which is viewed as a representation of subconscious and reality. Juxtaposing images, texts and gestures, the artist questions and contradicts the official history and collective memory.

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