In the shadow of the State/The touching contract is a collaboration between Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne that explores statehood from the perspective of the female body. Born of extensive research and collaborative work with experts from the fields of medicine, law, material culture and music, the final project consisted of a series of participatory live events in historically resonant spaces across Ireland and the UK. Staged through performance and sound, the artists explore the ways in which the State speaks to us through its language, architecture and institutions – and asks how we might answer back.
This collaborative project was informed by experts from multiple spheres of knowledge and experiences of State control. Collaborators included: academic Máiréad Enright, a specialist in the legal regulation of culture and religion; the North/Irish Feminist Judging Project together with midwife Philomena Canning; researcher and cultural historian Lisa Godson; along with many other activists and women from across the UK and Ireland. For the sonic elements and composition, the artists worked with Alma Kelliher, a composer, sound designer and musician based in Dublin.
The Touching Contract proposed new ways of understanding the political gesture of touch through an immersive performance work. Staged in historically resonant spaces such as a maternity hospital in Dublin and a juvenile court in London, Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne investigated the political gesture of touch through this series of immersive performances. The work existed in two acts: the administration of a contract (and its agreement by participants), followed by participation in a performance by an ensemble of women. The contract formed the basis of participation, detailing how audience members chose the nature of their involvement, and was developed in discussion with an invited group of women in Derry, Dublin and in London. The group explored with the artists and the performers how women encounter the touch of the law every day, with and without consent. This contract with the State was then interpreted by an ensemble of female performers, who delivered a series of improvised, direct and non-forceful touches to participants.