A LECTURE ON JOAN JONAS
DR. BARBER / DR. MORITZ
We were originally asked by the Baltimore Museum of Art to create a performance as a response to Joan Jonas’ video piece “Good Morning/Good Night”—a series of two videos in which Jonas says “good morning” followed by “good night” directly to her camera. She shot the first of her videos in 1976 and the second in 2006.
Dr. Barber and Dr. Moritz are monikers used to create a commanding presence in our performance, in order to confront and skewer the seeming authority and finality with which scholars address work such as this. We tackled this challenge by offering “slides,” which were actually pieces of choreography we executed, fragments of sound collage, and songs.
Additionally, we established an alternative physical reality in which we argued that Jonas broke the space-time continuum with her two pieces. We also cast obscurity on the authorship of the piece by arguing that it could be considered a collaboration with her dog, who appears often in the second piece.
Through our deconstruction of the artistic lecture, we emerged with a performance piece that at times reflected and quoted the types of performance pieces for which Jonas is known. As the deconstruction reached a sufficient pitch, the academic style of the language itself subverted the conceit of the lecture. While the language describing the project became increasingly technical, its arc became concurrently psychedelic. In its finality, the technical language, while never at any point illogical or absurd, became something that was beyond academic and informative. It reflected a style more closely associated with abstract playwrights like Caryl Churchill or Sybil Kempson. We concluded our “lecture” with a question-and-answer session with the audience, including special guests Albert Einstein and Paul Robeson. This provided clarity for those with genuine questions about the piece, while in part obscuring the performance’s ending.