The Magdalene Series
27 May 2022 - 24 September 2022
‘The Tower’ by Jesse Jones as part of The Magdalene Series at Rua Red
‘The Tower’, is a new work by artist Jesse Jones, and the third exhibition in the Magdalene Series at Rua Red, curated by Maolíosa Boyle.
Jesse Jones’ new film installation is the second part in a trilogy beginning with ‘Tremble Tremble’, which was commissioned for the Irish Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017.
Working with Rua Red dancers in residence Junk Ensemble, and a cast that includes actors Olwen Fouéré, Naomi Moonveld-Nkosi and a young choir of performers, ‘The Tower’ turns to the figure of the mystic and the heretic and questions ‘Who came before the witches?
The Magdalene Series features the work of five of Ireland’s leading artists Amanda Coogan, Jesse Jones, Grace Dyas, Alice Maher, and Rachel Fallon. The artists were commissioned by Rua Red in 2018 to create work in response to the conflicted and mysterious figure of Mary Magdalene. Over the last three years, the artists have been informed by a series of lectures by researchers, feminist theologians, and art historians on the history and legacy of the Magdalene, her association with the incarceration and institutionalisation of women, and the influence of religious, political and societal doctrine on her character.
Based on the writings of medieval female Christian mystics, ‘The Tower’ explores the women who were burned as heretics even before the first witch trials in the 17th century. It looks to a moment of radical potential, delving into the lost knowledge of women’s devotional and ecstatic visions and evoking the incarcerated penitent at prayer and at work.
"Jesse Jones takes us to the time that anticipated the witches' inquisition and invites us into the Tower. Here she summons the stories and visions of women that are both saints and witches and whose imagination held power to 'world new worlds' before it was crushed by the heresy trials that swept Europe in the 12th century.
Through the figure of Mary Magdalene, the music of 11th-century abbess and polymath composer Hildegarde af Bingen, and the inspired writings of medieval mystic Marguerite Porete, Jesse Jones unleashes the experience and injury of women's incarceration across Ireland, the UK, and France.
With ‘The Tower’ Jesse Jones doesn't merely correct history but makes space for spaciousness: for future, intangible or alternative worlds that are not limited by patriarch, eurocentric, and even human exceptionalism. In the immersive installation, we travel instead through Mary Magdalen's embrace of the sacred and the sensual; inside the mythic quantum energy of the natural world animating Hildegarde af Bingen's music, and around, the unfamiliar landscapes of divine love (agape) for which Marguerite Porete was sentenced to death in 1310." (Tara Londi, Art critic and writer.)
In the alternative world of ‘The Tower’, a giant pillar recalls Luis Buñuel’s ‘Simon of the Desert’ and reflects the life of devoted ascetic Saint Simeon Stylites, who waited on top of a pillar for six years to prove his devotion to God.
Jones’ pillar proclaims the possibility of a world without shame, and reclaims the radical and mystical potential apparent in many women writers of the 14th century, that was crushed by the period of the witch trials, the rise of capitalism, and the weaponization of shame.
“In Europe, they say, ‘We are the great-great granddaughters of the women you tried to kill in the witch trials,’ and in Ireland, we say, "We are the daughters and granddaughters of the women you tried to incarcerate and suppress,” - (Jesse Jones)
Featuring: Olwen Fouéré, Emily Kilkenny Roddy, Naomi Moonveld-Nkosi, Ava Richards, Síofra Kildee-Doolan, Rosie Phipps O’Neill, Amy Sheil, Aedín Ferguson, Saoirse McSharry, and Blathnaid Doyle Fox
‘The Tower’ premieres at Rua Red and features a cast that includes actors Olwen Fouéré and Naomi Moonveld-Nkosi, a young choir of performers, choreography by Junk Ensemble, soundtrack by Irene Buckley, costumes by Roisin Gartland and includes a new iteration of Jones’ now signature giant curtains.
Rua Red’s Dancers in Residence, ‘Junk Ensemble’ worked collaboratively with Jesse Jones on the choreography and movement of the performers bringing to life Jones’ vision for the work.
‘The Tower’ will be launched at Rua Red at 6pm on Friday 27 May. The exhibition continues until 27 August 2022.
Jesse Jones is a Dublin-based artist. 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. Jones’ practice is multi-platform, working in film installation, performance, and sculpture. Her recent work proposes a re-imagining of the relationship between the Law and the body through speculative feminism.
Using a form of expanded cinema, she explores magical counter-narratives to the State drawn from suppressed archetypes and myth. Major public commissions include, in the Shadow of the State with Sarah Browne co-commissioned by Create, Artangel and ART: 2016.
She represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2017 with the project " Tremble Tremble" whose title is inspired by the 1970s Italian wages for housework movement, during which women chanted “Tremate, tremate, le streghe sono tornate! (Tremble, tremble, the witches have returned!)”.
Jones’ work emerges from a rising social movement in Ireland which calls for a transformation of the historic relationship between the church and the state. She is currently the inaugural artist in residency for the King's Inn society of Ireland where she is researching the relationship between, Law, Testimony, and performance.
The Magdalene Series is a programme of exhibitions, interventions, performances, and events curated by Rua Red Director/Curator Maolíosa Boyle and features five of Ireland’s leading artists: Amanda Coogan, Alice Maher, Rachel Fallon, Jesse Jones, and Grace Dyas. Rua Red commissioned the five artists to research and produce new work in response to Mary Magdalene.
The Magdalene series will explore Mary Magdalene’s associations with the incarceration and institutionalisation of women and other themes such as forced labour, morality, shame, reparation, and penitence.
The series will propose a new world, uncurbed by religious, political, or societal doctrine, a world led by the experience of Magdalene and viewed through the lens of contemporary feminism and feminist theology.
Mary Magdalene has been a subject of fascination and curiosity throughout history. She is a binary creation: conflicted and mysterious, noble and humble, strong yet morally weak, beautiful and haggard, passionate yet penitent, erotic and unreserved, reclusive and solitary. The Magdalene is the earthly, carnal, and sensual counterpart to the celestial Virgin. She embodies humanity and humility - she sweats, cries, and bleeds. The Magdalene Series is the culmination of a three-year collaboration between the artists and curator. The process has also included input from leading international theologians, academics, and researchers.
The Magdalene Series is generously supported by the Creative Ireland Programme South Dublin, The Arts Council, and South Dublin County Council Arts Office.