Tremble Tremble and At the Gates, Talbot Rice Gallery

The phenomenal experience of Jesse Jones’ Tremble Tremble begins at the edge of darkness – one which consumes the spectator into a phantasmagorical womb of the Giantess.

Like a spectre, a performer floats around the Georgian Gallery, and with her so does our attention; sometimes it is caught by a bell, or an illumination and at others by her absence. All structures of the work collapse without the tiny elements that constitute it; each of which individually would be simply insufficient.

As an artist, Jones has been involved with ideas around class struggle and the historical oppression of women, and this work emerges out of Ireland’s infallible journey towards social change. With Tremble Tremble she experiments with what she calls ‘expanded cinema’ and by using theatrical elements builds up a psychic polyphony that keeps all senses of the viewer engaged and on edge at all times. The intimidating space that she invites her viewers into, not only removes them from their conventional standpoint of the visual dialogues between a displayed work of art and the space in which it is exhibited, but it also forces them to feel the episodic unpredictability of the situation that women affected by the Eighth Amendment have to suffer.

When the Giantess finally concludes the theatre staged in her womb, one finds oneself ‘At the Gates.’ Another experientially powerful exploration of first wave feminism and women’s struggle for social justice. The show takes its title partly inspired by Kafka’s parable Before the Law, a story of a man who spends his life standing at the gates of law waiting for permission; and partly from the American suffragist Lavinia Dock who said in 1917: ‘The old stiff minds must give way. … The young are at the gates!’ Tessa Giblin, the director of Talbot Rice, perfectly expresses in words how ‘this exhibition celebrates artists that are not waiting for permission.’ For not only does it celebrate artists such as these, but also the women behind these artistic identities – women who have been avant-garde, with absolute admiration and determination to fight for justice, to not back down or be treated as secondary in whatsoever social category or strata of society.

With its current shows, Talbot Rice is agreeably housing some very important works of art that contribute to social reform, and to evidence the importance of art in society, but it is also a catalyst. It is a catalyst that rests in the womb of the Giantess, and a catalyst that helps one discover that to bring a change in society one does not have to become an activist, one simply has to be present at the gates and let this presence scream: I am here, I am one more person you will have to fight, and I am one more person you cannot take down.

 

Image: Carlos Finlay

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