University of Edinburgh
Talbot Rice Gallery

Jesse Jones’ new film installation The Tower is the second part in a trilogy beginning with Tremble Tremblewhich was commissioned for the Irish Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. 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.

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 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 and costumes by Roisin Gartland. 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’ was commissioned by Rua Red as part of The Magdalene Series and funded by The Arts Council of Ireland, Creative Ireland, South Dublin County Arts Office, and Rua Red.

No booking is required and entry is free.

Further information

Jesse Jones: The Tower
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