In Joan Jonas’ They Come to us without a Word, currently on view at the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, viewers move through five immersive galleries picturing our place in the natural world. “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,” the artist has noted. “Rather, the ideas are implied poetically through sound, lighting, and the juxtaposition of images of children, animals and landscape.”
In this conversation between JD Beltran, Director of the Center for Impact at the California College of the Arts, and Gordon Knox, President of the San Francisco Art Institute, we pose the question: how can art institutions support artistic investigations of climate change, catastrophe, and activism in the Anthropocene? How do we encourage artists to address these subjects directly, didactically, or poetically? What do we think artistic efforts can or should do in this moment of climate crisis?
This conversation is co-sponsored by the Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture and held on the occasion of Joan Jonas’ They Come to Us without a Word exhibition, currently on view at FMCAC until March 10.
JD Beltran works across fine art, film, curation, and design. Her work has been exhibited at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Walker Art Center, the Getty Institute, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the MIT Media Lab, the Kitchen NYC, the Fei Contemporary Art Center in Shanghai, China, and the National Museum of Kyrgyzstan. She has served as President of the San Francisco Arts Commission (2011-2018) and as Director of the San Francisco Art Institute’s City Studio Youth Education Program.
Gordon Knox is President of SFAI. Prior to this role, he served as Director of Arizona State University Art Museum. Previously, Knox led Global Initiatives at the Stanford Humanities Lab, where he identified, developed and implemented international projects that combine the understandings and techniques of the arts, humanities and sciences and engaged them in on-the-ground efforts to effect social change.
Image: Joan Jonas, Moving off the Land, performance view. January 19, 2019. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture. Photo by Justin Oliphant.