Towards a Post -Patriarchal State

­­­­JOANNE LAWS INTERVIEWS SARAH BROWNE AND JESSE JONES ABOUT THEIR ONGOING PROJECT ‘IN THE SHADOW OF THE STATE’.

Joanne Laws: Perhaps you might explain how your collaboration came about and introduce some of your initial ideas in developing this major new project?

Sarah Browne/Jesse Jones: We’d known each other’s practices for many years and felt that at some stage we would find the right opportunity to work together. In 2014, we started discussing a potential collaboration with Patrick Fox (then Director of Create), and later Rachel Anderson (then producer/curator at Artangel, London). We attempted to identify the greatest urgencies for us as artists at that time and felt there was a renewed need to examine and refigure the position of women in relation to a patriarchal nation state. From the beginning of our work together, law and its instruments have been a critical focus. The Irish Sea also loomed large in our imagination.

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The Touching Contract

Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones, the Rotunda Hospital Pillar Room, Dublin, 23 – 25 September 2016

The day of the second public performance of Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne’s The Touching Contract fell on a date of heightened emotion for women in Ireland, taking place just hours after Dublin saw thousands take to the streets in the fifth annual March for Choice, part of the campaign demanding that the government repeal the Eighth Amendment. The atmosphere in the Rotunda Pillar Room’s ante-chamber was withdrawn and respectful; the audience appeared fragile.

The third chapter of four performative works in the pair’s first collaboration ‘In the Shadow of the State’ was devised in consultation with local women. [1] Feminist legal scholar Mairead Enright wrote the ‘legal score’ for the work, drawing on the archive of legal documents relating to the treatment of Irish women by the state and by the medical profession, both here and in the UK. This source material reveals a sorry history of medical misdemeanors and the enforced adoption of illegitimate children. The artists view this legacy as a history of violence against women and, given the horrors endured by survivors of symphysiotomy [2] and those who suffered incarceration at the hands of the church (in the Magdalene Laundries for example), it is difficult to argue otherwise.

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