Born in Madrid, Jana Leo is a philosopher and a conceptual artist-architect based in New York City.
She holds a PhD and a BA in Philosophy (2004, 1992) both from the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid as well as a MA in Architecture from the SoA Princeton University (USA, 2000). She completed her education with studies of photography, film, video and theater.
She develops concepts creating the mind set to change the reality. Through sociological experiments that often take the form of art projects she conducts researches. Art projects imagine the situation as if the new concepts have been already applied; for instance in City reservoir, one can be part of intellectual activities that would happen in a protected city; or Anne & Que is a play about a program that brings a resident to adopt a prisoner.
She is the author of the books “Rape New York (Book Works, London, 2009 and Feminist Press, New York, 2011), “I condo New York” (with Simon Lund, Vitoria – Gasteiz City Hall, 2009) and “El viaje sin distancia, perversiones del tiempo y el espacio en la cultura contemporánea” (CENDEAC, Murcia 2006 and 2015 second edition). Currently working in the publication of “The Art Resort” and “Pet Prisoner”. Most of her publications zoom in from the big to the small scale. In this way, Rape New York, documents of the impact of gentrification and real estate developments in a personal level, in the body and the mind. In the same lines, The Art Resort shows the effects that macro-operations, such as, the cultural industries has in the change of the city centers and cultural production. In Pet Prisoner the everyday of a person in a big city serve to analyze the mindset that allows containment and mass incarceration.
Jana Leo came to the United States in 1997 when she got a scholarship to attend to Princeton University and stay until the present expending time back and forth between New York and Madrid. Invited by Peter Eisenman, Jana Leo worked as a teacher of Projects and Advanced Concepts of Art and Architecture at Cooper Union University (New York, 2000-2007). In 2007 in New York she had initiated CIVIC GAPS, a think-tank dedicated to studying neglected situations that occur in the city. In 2008, she founded MOSIS-MOdels and Systems, Art and City, a not for profit based in Madrid. As an example, of the activities “You will be my eyes” (2010 Madrid and 2011 Barcelona) is a tour that enables tourists to go for a walk with a photographer giving place to an encounter between two cultures and two individuals through photography. She works on preserving the intangible of the cities in Madrid, Barcelona, New York and Moscu.
In 2012 after several years of working (from the foundation) for policy change on the public space and city issues, she switch gears and focus only in writing and focus on intimate art projects. Coming from the conclusion that it is the way we live which allows structures, such as city centers becoming tourist resorts, prisons design to profit from prisoners etc… to be real, the only way to avoid these aberration is to rethink everyday routines. Trying to record this elasticity of the mind in allowing horrific structures, she works with sociologist Terry Williams, in a manuscript (tentatively called) Pet Prisoner. As part of the research in 2014 they did “The Experiment in Living (New York, 2014)” living with a prisoner on parole in her own apartment for three days. Later on, the experience and the concepts were then translated into a play “Anne & Que, Pet Prisoner” (New York 2015).
Jana Leo has a sporadic but extensive history of performance. Her early work such as in “Impuros”, were performances done for the camera and take the final form of videos or self-portraits, she keep this trend for years for instance in “Naturalization Self-test”(2013). She has done also solo performances in galleries and museum, “Fight” (2011). She conceived and organized the YANS & RETO (Young And Not Stupid, Radical Even Though Old) festival, an annual festival of contemporary performance held in New York at the Anthology Film Archives for actors and visual artists over sixty and under thirty.
As an artist, she works with photography, video, text and installations and her work has taken several directions but always having in common the collaboration and anonymity. One direction is to create “situations” that enable strangers to meet; for instance “Writing love letters” (New York, 2005), “I Will be your Eyes” (Barcelona 2011). Another direction points towards collective art actions and city; for instance “Flying paper airplanes at MoMA,” a call for action to fly paper airplanes printed with an essay on the role of art and architecture in the macro-museums to mark the exhibition “New Architecture in Spain” (New York, 2005). The third direction, present in her early works, treat issues such as: authority, body, sex, gender and public intimacy in a way that is hard to see what is real and what is performance. Her most well known photography and video series “A”, exhibited in 1999 at the National Museum of Art Reina Sofia in Madrid, now part of the Museum’s art collection.
Jana Leo’s solo exhibitions and performances include: Anne & Que, Pet Prisoner (Invisible Exports, New York, 2015)Reserva Ciudad (Espai Cultural, Barcelona, Dec. 2011), Fight (Casa Encendida, Madrid, February 2011), Some Like it Cold (Invisible Exports, New York, 2010), Cabaret Inmobiliario (Tres en Suma,Madrid, March 2010), Reserva Ciudad (Espai Cultural, Madrid,Oct. 2010), “6 Euros por hora” (Museo del Prado. Apoyo de Off Limits, Madrid, April 2010), Rape New York, Open Archive (Invisible Exports, New York, Jul 2009), Blind-ate (Trong Nuyen, New York, 2007), As a Mall I really Like MOMA (MOMA, New York, 2006), Objetos de Palabras(Open Studios at ISCP International Studio Program, New York, 2005), Rape-Room (Project Room, ARCO, Madrid, 2002), Olor a Muerte/ Smell of Death (Steffany Marz Gallery, New York, May 1999), Ositos II (Javier Lopez Gallery, Madrid, Sept 1999), A. (National Museum of Art Reina Sofia, Madrid, June 1999), Colecciona un cuerpo (Buades Art Gallery, Madrid,May, 1999), AIDS (FNAC, Madrid, Oct. 1994). Her group exhibitions include: Los Invencibles (Matucama Museum, Chile 2015), Viaje Extraordinario (Oficina de Turismo de Gerona y Centro Cultural laMerced, 2013), Doing and Undoing(MINE, Bob Flanagan & Sheree Rose, Jana Leo and Hannah Wilke, Invisible Exports, New York, 2010), Control Games Performance- Festival of Performance, Galway, Ireland, 2007), Memoria Congelada (Festival of Performance, Biennial ofValencia, 2007), Escribiendo cartas de amor (Pardon Me, Liane and Danny Taran Gallery, Montreal, Canada, 2005), Los amantes de después. (with Angel Borrego Cubero, Video Musical Party, Casa America, Madrid, 2005), El Intruso (Strangers, Int. Center for Photography, New York, 2003), Bubble-Bed (B&B Unit, Smack Melon Gallery, New York, 2002), Bathrooms (ARCO, Madrid, 1998), Cabina Privada (Buades Art Gallery, Madrid, 1996).
Jana Leo’s video works include: Naturalization Self-test (2013), Just For You (2002), La Mano libre (2002), Limpiando el baño (1998), La Mano Libre (2002), Baby y Pipa primer encuentro (1998), Histeria (1997), Retratos (1996), La Herida (1995).
Jana Leo’s works are present in several public collections: Museo Nacional de España, Madrid (“Lunch”and “Just for you”), Biblioteca Nacional de Uruguay (“La Mano Libre”), Foundation Marcelino Botin Santander (“Parque” and “Lunch” from the series “Double and Split”), Museo de Vigo. (“Cuerpo en Maleta”), Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid (” A”), Comunidad de Madrid(”Bathrooms”), Ayuntamiento de Alcorcón (“S/T 2”), Comunidad de Madrid (“Cartas de Amor”), Canal Isabel II, Madrid (” Impuros”).