Jesse Jones is a Dublin-based artist and teaches in Fine Art programmes at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design in Cork. Her practice crosses the media of film, performance and installation. Often working through collaborative structures, she has been exploring how historical instances of communal culture may hold resonance in our current social and political experiences. Jones’ practice is multi-platform, working in film installation, performance and sculpture. Her recent work has examined how political movements and ideas might be expanded to institutional, performative gestures.
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.
Feminist Parasite Institution Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane
NO MORE FUN AND GAMES – a Feminist Parasite Institution – was a project for Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane, exploring how a feminist collective might redress or renegotiate gaps and omissions in the history of women’s art and the canon. Taking the form of a parasitic institution within the institution of the High Lane, NO MORE FUN AND GAMES was activated each day through performance and mediation. It consisted of a series of performative tours, discussions, lectures, events and publication, all produced within the curated and staged environment of the three exhibition galleries.
It was motivated by the idea that a feminist curatorial practice could be experimental, collaborative, multi-authored and counter to the value judgements that have historically been used to marginalize feminist and other art practices. Jesse Jones invited a number of women to form a collaborative curatorial collective, and to curate an exhibition of works by female artists selected from the Hugh Lane collection. They were exhibited together for the first time and many were restored for the project. Working towards an idea of expanded cinema, Jones installed a reflective, celluloid-like wallpaper to the gallery in which the historical artworks were hung and placed.
A new cinematic score was composed in collaboration with Gerald Busby, whose work on Robert Altman’s 1970′s film, 3 Women had been influential on Jones’ research. This score was presented on a number of speakers throughout the galleries, each white and standing individually in space, much like a figure, sculpture or totem. The composition, titled pneuma, was performed entirely by flute, inspired by the artworks selected by the curatorial collective from the Hugh Lane’s collection. The connecting and coordinating materials of image, sound, motion and sequence are reworked in Jones’ attempt to make cinema without projection, never more apparent than in the large-scale, printed curtain that snaked its way from one gallery to another. This artwork was conceived as a moving gesture, and was pulled by white-gloved attendants who greeted visitors upon entrance to the parasite institution, and traced their path through the gallery as it raced along the tracks, interrupting, concealing and revealing elements of the installation as it came to rest or departed once more. Printed on this fabric was an enormous image of a hand of power – curled in a beckoning, yet also threatening manner. With finger nails sharpened into claw-like form, the female wisdom and knowledge that has found fantastical vents in the realm of witches’ tales and caricature is bought back into the work with a power born of its sincerity: the hand that traverses these rooms of the Museum is the hand of the artist’s Mother.
Thinking of the parasite as abject body which, through inhabiting its host, might corrupt and eventually demand resources that might destroy the host itself, NO MORE FUN AND GAMES aims to frame feminist artistic practice as a radical counter history that has the power to destabilise the museum and the project of art history, itself. The title, NO MORE FUN AND GAMES, references a 1969 publication by the American militant separatist feminist organization CELL 16, which proposed a performative, political and sensual aesthetic of a world without men. NO MORE FUN AND GAMES echoed this strategy of separatism through its curatorial and ‘film-making’ approach – attempting to redress or renegotiate omissions in the historical canon of art.
HD film, double screen installation (synchronised), 60 mins Commissioned by Artsonje Centre, Seoul and CCA Derry
The Other North was commissioned by Artsonje Center, Seoul and CCA Derry. The work developed from Jones’ research into archival footage of Northern Ireland during the period referred to as The Troubles, between the late 1960s and the mid-1990s, combined with research visits to South Korea and in particular the DMZ, Korean Demilitarised Zone.
Emerging from research into boarder territory as an archetype between North and South, her film focuses on the re-enactment of a ‘conflict resolution therapy session’ held by American psychologist Carl Rogers in the early 1970s. In particular, an experimental therapy session called The Steel Shutter that aimed to bring together individuals from various political and socio-economic backgrounds in Northern Ireland. Roger’s theory was that historical conflict could be collectively resolved through open communication and empathy for the other. However It was rejected by both sides of the community for being politically naïve and idealistic at the time. Jones re-stages the event in contemporary Korea to explore the shared psychic effect of a perceived sense of North as other to the Self.
The Other North uses transcripts of the therapy sessions as verbatim scripts that are adapted to Korean, and staged using the aesthetics of Han to connect deep-rooted, shared experiences of historical trauma and post-colonial condition that connect both the culture of Ireland and Korea. The script is performed by eleven Korean actors seated in a circle, and filmed through a constantly rotating camera at the centre.
Their stories focus on daily experiences of conflict as a lived reality, rather than on ideologies and dogma. They are real people trapped in crisis of history that they are desperately trying to escape, but there is a looming psychic boarder that seems to mirror the psychological boarder zone itself. The film’s constantly shifting visual style means the viewer is denied one single viewpoint and is in constant motion between the film’s subjects. The Other North provides an opportunity to consider the effects of cultural, political, and national divisions, and their influence on individuals beyond geographical and political borders through different historical and cultural perspectives.
Publication, The Other North, published by CCA Derry and IMA, Brisbane, forthcoming in September 2016
16mm film transferred to video, 29 mins Commissioned by REDCAT, Los Angeles
Commissioned by REDCAT, Los Angeles in 2011, The Struggle against Ourselves seeks out the false starts and forgotten dreams of the early avant-garde, tracing the appropriation of radical aesthetics by mass entertainment through exploring the legacies of cinema as a social and political medium. The film re-enacts an acting workshop from 1920’s post-revolutionary Russia by Vsevolod Meyerhold (1874–1940) in present day Los Angeles, the heart of the American film industry. This gesture of estrangement tracks the lost possibilities of a cultural moment and explores how the poetics of form in the avant-garde revealed a deep and complex political context. The film revolves around a workshop between theatre director Chi-wang Yang and students from CalArts, restaging a series of Meyerhold’s ‘études’, symbolic physical gestures that resembled elements of dance. Meyerhold would later be denounced by Stalin as a traitor to the project of Socialist Realism, yet Meyerhold intended the movements’ form, and synchrony of the collective performing body as a political display that would raise the consciousness of the working class. Jones draws links between Meyerhold’s project and the later Hollywood spectacle of Busby Berkeley film productions in which the collective performing body is machine-like and transformed to spectacle.
The uncanny formal resemblance between the two performative languages of Meyerhold and Berkley embody a legacy of militarism and violence through their regimented, choreographed actions. Unlike the mechanised perfection of the latter, however, The Struggle Against Ourselves features students striving with a dedicated honesty – sometimes succeeding, sometimes faltering – to recreate a series of études, relying on group cooperation as well as an intense bodily dedication.
In its final stages, this hypnotic and melancholic film shifts from rehearsal to a performance in which the actors are isolated against a blank backdrop, as if temporarily suspended in an alternate space that still holds potential for the present. The film’s haunting Bach-inspired soundtrack features a performance by Jones’s frequent collaborator, theremin virtuosa Lydia Kavina. The film frames the cinematic space as a haunting of a shared cultural memory and experience as well as the pathos for the future that never arrived.
Jesse Jones’s 16mm film Mahogany was first exhibited in the 9th Istanbul Biennial in 2009. Re-scripted from the final scene of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s 1927 opera The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahogany, Jones’s film tells the story of a city on the outskirts of society, whose inhabitants are offered a space of ‘infinite freedom’ as long as they pay enough money.
This false freedom manifests itself in an excessive indulgence of pleasures and soon reveals itself to be finite and oppressive. Mahogany was shot in the Australian outback and re-stages this fictitious city of Mahoganny in the wake of its collapse as a dialogue between the city’s architect Begbick, and a Whisper Choir made up of its inhabitants.
Setting the action in the landscape of the Australian desert the film takes the geographical location and allegorical to the conditions of Capitalism and how we are expected to survive it’s limitations.
Whilst Brecht intended Mahogany to be a criticism of the false freedoms of the Weimar Republic, Jesse Jones tests the marginality of political gesture and the crisis of forms of viable political action in contemporary post-utopian society.
Jesse Jones’ commissioned 16mm film The Spectre and the Sphere evokes the spectres of ideology and amplifies residual voices that haunt the cultural vessels of history. It examines how the spaces of our popular imagining such as the theatre and the cinema are also containers of historical and political impulses. The Spectre and the Sphere conjures up a particular moment in the early twentieth century through the use of cultural artefacts, imagining the various historical potentialities of the time, and how these residues may be present in our construction of the future.
Jones’s adapts the text from Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto as its script performer by a whispering choir. The twelve-minute film, commissioned by Project Arts Centre in 2008 it was Tessa Giblin and Jesse Jones’s first collaborating project. Shot in the historic Vooruit theatre in Ghent, Belgium (where the Internationale was composed), the film simultaneously conjures up cultural and political histories as a means of reflecting upon contemporary political imaginings and asks was there another future possible.
Commissioned by Fire Station Artists Studios and Dublin Docklands Development Authority. Supported by Dublin City Council and Dublin Port Company.
12 Angry Films was a temporary Drive In cinema that showed films examining class, migration and social justice in Dublin’s Docklands over two nights in Nov 2006.
Located in the dramatic disused industrial setting of Pigeon House, a place formally used for manufacturing was transformed into a temporary Drive-in cinema. The objective of this art project, conceived by visual artist Jesse Jones, was to create a collective social space where films both by and about workers and activists could be shown, generating debate and reflection on globalisation and the changing nature of industrial labour.
Over the two evenings, four feature films were shown in a series of two double-bills, including Peter Lennon’s seminal ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’ and Naomi Klein’s recent documentary ‘The Take’. The Drive-in also showed a number of collaborative short films made during the course of workshops facilitated by the artist Jesse Jones, at Fire Station Artists’ Studios over the last year.
This project was the culmination of a process in which Jesse Jones has been working with 28 participants over a 6 month period in the Fire Station Artists’ Studios in Dublin. These participants were contacted through trade unions and activist and community networks and the workshops involved film screenings and discussions as well as scripting, storyboarding and film-making tutorials. Guest speakers to the workshops included film maker Peter Lennon who directed ‘The Rocky Road to Dublin’, Rossport Five member Vincent McGrath and Socialist TD Joe Higgins.
This intense workshop programme led to the production of a series of short films that explored issues such as migration, trade unionism, and gender, all through intimate stories of experience. In making their films, the artist set the participants three simple rules; firstly the film would be set entirely in a car, it would not be in English and the maximum length would be three minutes. This set of rules provided and aesthetic guideline for the films and also served as restrictions that would open up experimentation. The resulting films were diverse, with languages ranging from Polish to Swahili, they each tell a story of a contemporary Ireland that is in transition, culturally and politically.
Visitors to the Drive in were able tune their car radios to a special frequency which broadcast the soundtrack to the films. Before each screening three half hour radio programme made by the workshop participants and Jesse Jones were also broadcast. These radio programmes deal with issues around workers rights and migrancy and arose out of discussions that came out of the workshops between the participants, the artist and the specially invited guest speakers.
Jesse Jones is a Dublin-based artist and teaches in Fine Art programmes at CIT Crawford College of Art & Design in Cork. Her practice crosses the media of film, performance and installation. Often working through collaborative structures, she explores how historical instances of communal culture may hold resonance in our current social and political experiences. Recent exhibitions and projects include the major new work In the Shadow of the State, commissioned by Artangel (UK) and Create with funding support from Ireland 2016, and made in collaboration with artist Sarah Browne.
Selected solo exhibitions have included NO MORE FUN AND GAMES, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane (2016); The Other North, Artsonje Centre, Seoul; CCA Londonderry (2013); Sleepwalkers, Hugh Lane Municipal Art Gallery, Dublin (2012); The Struggle against Ourselves, Spike Island, Bristol; REDCAT Los Angeles; The National Sculpture Factory, Cork (2011); The Spectre and the Sphere, Project Arts Centre, Dublin; Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto (2009). Recent group exhibitions include The Eclipse of an Innocent Eye, National Gallery, Prague (2015); Primal Architecture, IMMA, Dublin; Ghosts, Spies, and Grandmothers, Seoul Media City Biennial, Seoul Museum of Art where she showed The Predicament of Man; Invisible Violence, Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade and ARTIUM, Basque country; The Talking Cure, Oakville Galleries Toronto and IMA Brisbane Australia (2014); Salon der Angst, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna; The Real DMZ Project, Artsonje Centre, Seoul, Korea; Labour and lockout, Limerick City Gallery, Ireland; Above the Rim of the Glass, Signal, Malmo (2013); The Selfish Act of Community, CINACT, Serpentine Cinema, London; Proposition/When Genealogy becomes critique: performance event, New Museum, New York; Stages in the Revolution, Whitstable Biennial (2012) as well as the 11th Istanbul Biennial curated by WHW (2009) where she showedMahogany. Jesse Jones has also produced two major public art projects: The Prosperity Project (2013-14) and 12 Angry Films (2005). Jones has an MA in Visual Arts Practices from IADT, Dublin, and a BA Hons. Fine Art (Sculpture) from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin.