Every two years, an artist is selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, widely regarded as the world’s most important exhibition of contemporary art. Last month, video and performance artist Joan Jonas—professor emerita at MIT, where she has taught since 1998—received the coveted commission for the 56th Biennale, which will open in Spring 2015.

MIT List Visual Arts Center Director Paul Ha put Jonas’s name forward for consideration and will co-curate the exhibit with Ute Meta Bauer, a past director of the MIT Visual Arts Program. This will be the third Venice Biennale exhibit presented by the List. The previous exhibits featured the work of Fred Wilson in 2003 and Ann Hamilton in 1999.

“She creates these intense, temporary moments of connectedness,” Ha says of Jonas, who is known for layering an unpredictable range of media—video projections, chalk, branches, marbles, mirrors, her own body—to grapple with themes from life and literature. “Her work is about mythmaking and narrative and enchantment.”

“All my work is about the present,” the 77-year-old artist told the Boston Globe on April 24. “I don’t take a period piece and try to reproduce it.” No one, including Jonas herself, knows yet what an estimated half-million Biennale visitors will see in the five galleries of the US pavilion next year between May and November. Clues, however, may exist within a nature-and-climate-themed piece Jonas developed at MIT called Reanimation (which she will perform again at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts this November). According to the exhibit website, Jonas will create new, interrelated site-responsive installations—incorporating video, drawings, objects, and sound—that focus on, as she notes, “landscape and natural phenomena” and “the ocean as a poetic, totemic, and natural entity, as a life source and home to a universe of beings.”

Read the full story from the Boston Globe and explore some of Jonas’s past work.

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