Press Release

Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture (FMCAC) announces the US premiere of They Come to Us without a Word, a major multi-media installation by American artist Joan Jonas. Originally commissioned for the US Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and awarded a prestigious “Special Mention” by the International Jury of the Biennale, the installation incorporates Jonas’ iconic blend of performance, video art, drawing and sculpture to create an immersive, multipart journey that addresses the fragility of the natural world. They Come to Us without a Word will be on view at Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture from January 17, 2019, through March 10, 2019, free and open to the public. Loan of the work and support for its presentation is generously provided by the Kramlich Collection.




International exhibitions

International Archives 1st half of 2019

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word

Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, San Francico (USA)

17.01 - 10.03.2019




Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word, FMCAC, San Francisco

© ArtCatalyse International / Marika Prévosto 2019. All Rights Reserved

For five decades, Jonas has been at the vanguard of interdisciplinary art forms. Her pioneering integration of video, sculpture, and performance creates expansive environments shifting traditional models of image making and story-telling. Considered among the most influential video and performance artists emerging from the late 1960s, Jonas continues to create new bodies of work that consider subjects like the figure in the landscape, the ritual use of object and gesture, and the fragility of the natural environment in the age of the Anthropocene. Her work was recently the subject of a major retrospective at the Tate Modern, and she is a recipient of the 2018 Kyoto Prize, which acknowledges global achievement and contributions to humanity.

Inspired by Jonas’s earlier examination of Halldόr Laxness’s fantastical novel Under the Glacier, her summers in Nova Scotia and the wonder of nature, They Come to Us without a Word integrates video, drawings, sound, objects and performance to construct five immersive galleries, each organized around a central image (Bees, Fish, Mirror, Wind and Homeroom). Fragments of ghost stories sourced by oral traditions from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, form a nonlinear narrative that links each gallery with the next. Through the interplay of disparate mediums, They Come to Us without a Word mirrors human interference with nature’s ecosystems, creating an experience where the impact of each artistic element reverberates throughout the room. Taken together, these elements form a highly complex work depicting a fractured yet interdependent chain of life.

“Although the idea of my work involves the question of how the world is so rapidly and radically changing, I do not address the subject directly or didactically,” says Jonas. “Rather, the ideas are implied poetically through sound, lighting, and the juxtaposition of images of children, animals and landscape."

In conjunction with the exhibition, Jonas will present two live performances of Moving Off the Land, a mesmerizing tribute and poetic response to the power of the ocean. Commissioned by TBA21–Academy and recently presented in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall as part of a major survey exhibition dedicated to her work, the multi-layered performance brings together readings, dance, live drawing and projections to portray the ocean’s biodiverse inhabitants and endangered marine cultures. Moving Off the Land will be presented on Saturday, January 19, and Sunday, January 20, 2019. Time and ticketing information at

Exhibition January 17 - March 10, 2019. Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, 2 Marina Blvd - San Francisco, CA 94123
(USA). Hours: Wednesday–Saturday 12–8pm, Sunday 11am–5pm.








Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word  (production still), 2015. © 2018 Joan Jonas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Joan Jonas, They Come to Us without a Word  (production still), 2015. © 2018 Joan Jonas / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.