The Politics of the Witch

Jesse Jones: Tremble Tremble
Project Arts Centre, Dublin
07.06.18 – 18.07.18

Joint Second Prize
Entry in English

In the womblike black box of the Project Arts Centre, a witchy giantess bore down over me and warned, ‘Did I disturb ye good people? I hopes I disturb ye, I hopes I disturb ye enough to want to see this, your house, in ruins all around ye! Have you had enough yet? Or do you still have time for chaos? Hah? More? I’ll be watching ye, you won’t forget us, even if you try and sweep us away, you who survive will mean nought and Temperance knows you’ll be sorry.’ This is the embodied reincarnation of Temperance Lloyd, who in 1682 along with Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles of Bideford were the last three women to be hanged in England as witches. For me, as an Irish woman, in a post-referendum Ireland, this has a particularly charged resonance. The empowering feeling that the witches are coming out of the woodwork washes over me. Maybe there can be some retribution for the past.

The degrading and brutal history of Ireland’s treatment of women, their sexuality, bodies, fertility and autonomy, is harrowing and complex. In the post-revolutionary period of the 1930s, Ireland saw a rise in Church and State institutional and political influence. These institutions became synonymous with the abuse of women, as well as the brutalisation of vulnerable people in their care. It was witnessed in the legalisation of rape during marriage, birth management systems, symphysiotomy and anti-abortion legislation. Women were forced into Magdalene Laundries – institutions of manual labour – for becoming pregnant outside of marriage. Their children were then taken and given up for adoption, and they remained in the laundry, working for free, many for the rest of their lives in repentance.

Unfortunately, these are not just chapters in our history and the floodgates of their exposure have opened. In recent years, a scandal broke over misdiagnosis in cervical cancer testing, historical adoption irregularities were confirmed, a mass grave containing the remains of up to 800 babies and children was discovered in the grounds of a former Catholic care home in Ireland, not to mention the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Irish Catholic establishment since the 1990s.

This year has been one of radical change and a momentous time for Irish women, not least due to the centenary of women’s suffrage in Ireland. Today in Ireland there is a social movement that aims to break this bond between the Church and State and move towards a more tolerant society. In many ways this movement was instigated through the marriage equality referendum in 2015 and is deepened now by the feminist movement. It is echoed in #MeToo and #IBelieveHer campaigns and the increasing demand to repeal the Eighth Amendment, which until recently outlawed abortion constitutionally.

An extremely divisive, emotional and exhausting debate took hold of Ireland in the months preceding the abortion referendum during which the rights of the unborn and the importance of women’s autonomy were argued at length. On 25 May 2018, Ireland voted overwhelming to facilitate legislation on abortion, to the relief and surprise of many, as the outcome was unpredictable. It was feeling emotionally drained and a little tender so soon after this referendum ( as we still have far to go ) that I wandered from the bright Dublin streets into the dark solemn space of Jesse Jones’s exhibition.

First presented in the Pavilion of Ireland at the 57th Venice Biennale, acting as a form of public protest, Jones brought ‘The Law of In Utera Gigantae’ home to Ireland, opening only weeks after the abortion referendum and closing a month before the Pope’s visit – sandwiched perfectly between State and Church. On 25 August, Pope Francis became the first pontiff to travel to Ireland in thirty-nine years. A very different place to the Ireland of 1979, when contraception, homosexuality, abortion and divorce were illegal. Tremble Tremble comes from a feeling of deep political anger over what Irish women have endured at the hands of the Irish State since its formation, which is safe to say, the current mood of Irish people. It inhabits a moment of transition from protest to legislation.

The title Tremble Tremble comes from a chant proclaimed by Italian feminists in the 1970s, fighting for wages for housework and access to abortion: ‘Tremate, tremate, le streghe son tornate!’ ( Tremble, tremble, the witches have returned! ). ‘In Utera Gigantae’ reimagines a law that places the womb of the maternal body above the Law and State entirely, positing a new world order where the giant’s womb is the site of the only true law. It suggests an alternative original history for women, proposing a present based on this female idea rather than male deities and patriarchies. It calls from our wicken ancestors, a law transmitting memory from generation to generation.

Commissioned and curated by Tessa Giblin, the 30-minute installation comprises a selection of films featuring Irish actress Olwen Fouéré as a central giant figure. The script, which is performed by Fouéré and written by Jones, is also projected on large screens. There are muslin curtains with printed images of arms that are pulled in circular motions, as well as sculpture, smoke, light and a sound score created by Susan Stenger. These features combine to create an immersive experience for the viewer. The installation unfolds in stages as the viewer’s attention is brought to each distinct feature one by one. The curtains are pulled by performers as the hands take you through the installation like a hand on the shoulder, guiding you through the space. An all-female creation, it is a collaboration of an occult girl-gang come to bring the Irish Church and State its comeuppance.

Due to the currently charged situation, Tremble Tremble becomes particularly emotive and powerful at home in Ireland. Jones has created an atmosphere, intensified by the threshold of change on which Irish law teeters, making the work transformative and generating an aesthetic experience that draws in the viewer and at times bewilders. The artist’s work has never been easy to penetrate and this piece is no different. The breadth of references includes ‘Lucy’, a 3.2-million-year-old fossil remnant of the extinct hominin species, Australopithecus afarensis; the Malleus Maleficarum ( 1487 ) witchcraft handbook; and allusions to Irish fables of gigantism. One message remains clear: ‘You won’t forget us, even if you try to sweep us away.’

As a touring exhibition, already shown in Venice and Singapore, Tremble Tremble travels on to Edinburgh and Bilbao. Each installation thus far has evolved with its various iterations, taking in site-specific adjustments for each location. In Singapore a burning table was added; in Ireland it features water taken from the sacred source of holy wells, which a performer drinks, and a circle is carved into the space’s walls to mark the passing of each loop. The experience of this show in the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, with nearly 3,500 visitors per day, was in stark contrast to the Project Arts Centre, which has the aura of a place of ritual and meditation.

A unique aspect of Jones’s work is how she remains present in the gallery with her work after it is installed. She was in the Project Arts Centre as a performer but also engaged with viewers of the work, if called upon. This everyday presence bears witness to its reception as she embodies the work itself – an admiral commitment not seen that often. Perhaps her presence is necessary in order to help draw out its origins. What remains clear is how the artist has accurately captured the atmosphere of a poignant moment in the making of Irish history, which other artists haven’t dealt with as provocatively.

The atmosphere of Tremble Tremble manifests twofold. As a socially engaged and critical artist Jones has successfully captured the anger of a people and a country, ashamed of the long line of atrocities in its past. Yet she has simultaneously created an exhibition that is sophisticated and imaginative, drawing from a historical narrative of the past. Tremble Tremble is a reminder of how close we are to our histories and how we must remember. An exhibition that left me awed, hushed and not completely understanding but wanting to know more. Wanting to be a part of the spellbound revolution. Wanting to take an active role in changing laws.



杰西·琼斯: 颤抖,颤抖
2018 年6 月8 日—2018 年7 月18 日


在项目艺术中心里有如子宫般的黑盒子展厅中,一个女巫样貌的巨人向我附身发出警告:“我打扰到你们这些好人了吗?我希望自己打扰到了,我希望自己让你心烦到想要停下来看看,看看你的这个房子,它像一片废墟那样包围着你!你受够了吗?或者你还有时间看看更混乱的事?哈?再多一些?我会看着你的, 你不会忘了我们,哪怕你试着把我们清扫干净,你们这些幸存者将会微不足道,而坦普伦斯知道你会感到抱歉。”说话的是坦普伦斯·劳埃德的化身,她同来自比迪福德的苏珊娜·爱德华兹和玛丽·特兰布一起,是英国在1682 年被绞刑处死的最后三位女巫。身为一位爱尔兰女性,眼前的一切在公投之后的爱尔兰足以产生极具争议的共鸣。参观展览后,女巫们从木作中走出来的栩栩如生之感冲刷着我。也许它确实是过去在进行某种报应。

爱尔兰对待妇女及她们的性、身体、生育及自治权的过往是落后野蛮的,这段历史可怖而复杂。在30 年代后革命时期中, 爱尔兰看到了宗教及国家机构的政治影响力在与日俱增。这些机构成为虐待妇女的同义词,也曾对政府应当看护的弱势群体进行过残酷的镇压。婚内强奸合法化、生育管理系统、耻骨联合切开术以及反堕胎的立法都让人们看到了真切的残酷。在合法婚姻范畴外意外怀孕的妇女们,会被强制送往“抹大拉洗衣店”进行劳动改造。她们的孩子会被强行带走并被他人领养,而这些妇女则要在洗衣店做免费劳力,许多人的余生都在那里强制执行的悔改中度过。

不幸的是,这些不仅仅是我们历史书中的篇章,有关这些血腥过往的种种都在打开泄洪之闸。想想近年来曝光过的各种丑闻吧:针对宫颈癌的误诊、历史上违规领养的事件被确认、在一座爱尔兰前天主教护理院的地下发掘出多达800 具婴儿和孩童的尸体,还有自90 年代以来不断震惊爱尔兰天主教教徒们的性虐待丑闻。

今年是激进变革的一年,对爱尔兰妇女们来说也是极为重要的一年,还是爱尔兰妇女选举权的百年纪念。在今天的爱尔兰, 一项社会运动正试图打破教会与国家政府之间的联系,希望国家朝着更具宽容度的社会前进。从许多方面来看,这项运动是在2015 年提倡婚姻平权的公投发生之后被发动起来的,并且因为现在的女性主义运动而越发地深入。它响应了#metoo(我也是) 和#IBelieveHer(我相信她)的运动,而废除第八修正案的呼声也愈演愈烈,这项法案直到最近仍旧在宪法层面上对堕胎进行严令禁止。

在堕胎法案面临公投之前的数月期间,爱尔兰一直在进行一场极度分化、激烈而耗人的论战,有关未出生者的权利及女性自治的重要性被反复地探讨。5 月25 日,爱尔兰的投票结果显示, 支持堕胎合法化获得了压倒性的胜利,这令许多人感到宽慰,同时对另一部分人来说则是意料之外的结果。在这次公投之后(尽管我们仍旧有很长的路要走),我感到情绪上的精疲力尽以及些许的脆弱,我在都柏林亮堂的街道上漫步,直到走进了杰西·琼斯个展暗黑而肃穆的空间中。

琼斯题为“In Utera Gigantae 法律”的项目最早以公众抗议活动的形式出现在第57 届威尼斯双年展的爱尔兰馆,这次作品被带回爱尔兰,展览开始于公投结束的数周之后,并且在教皇到访前一个月结束—非常完美地夹在了教会和国家之间。在8 月25 日,教皇方济各成为39 年来首次到访爱尔兰的教宗。今天的爱尔兰,与1979 年那个避孕、同性恋、堕胎及离婚都被视作非法的爱尔兰已经大为不同了。展览“颤抖颤抖”来自于爱尔兰女性的深切感受,她们自这个国家成立以来就长期忍受着政治带来的愤慨情绪,可以肯定地说,这种情绪正是今天爱尔兰人民的时代精神。它就处在这个自抗议向合法进程过渡的特殊时期。

展览的标题“颤抖,颤抖”,来自70 年代意大利女性主义的一首颂歌,当时的她们为自己奋起抗争家务劳动的报酬以及堕胎的合法途径,歌里唱到:“颤抖,颤抖,女巫们已经回来!”。琼斯的“In Utera Gigantae”想象了一套将母体子宫完全置于法律和国家之上的法律系统,它建立起崭新的世界秩序,在这个世界中,巨人的子宫是唯一真正的法典的所在。它为女性提供了一种替代性的历史,提出了一种基于这一女性主义观点之上的当下, 而不是一个受到男性神灵和父权制度统领的社会。它召唤着我们被“巫名化”的先辈,它是一部世世代代口耳相传的法典。

展览由泰莎·吉布林委任创作并策展,项目主体是一件影像装置,影像时长30 分钟,由各种素材片段混合而成,其中爱尔兰女演员奥文·弗瑞扮演了最为核心的巨人角色。由琼斯写作、弗瑞表演的剧本也一并投影在大屏幕上。在装置中,印有手臂图案的平纹细布幕帘拉扯出圆形的运动轨迹,此外还有雕塑、烟雾、光影以及由苏珊·斯坦格谱写的声音在空间中回荡。上述这些融合在一起,为观看者创造了一种沉浸式的体验。随着观看者的注意力逐一地投射到装置的不同部分上,整件作品分阶段地徐徐铺 展。幕帘由表演者拉动,他们的手好像搭在你肩头那样引领你穿行于整个展览之中。这是一件全部出自女性之手的创作,像是来自某个秘密的女性帮派那样,这样的合作为爱尔兰的教会和国家政府带来了他们应当面对的“报应”。

因为当下社会环境的缘故,“颤抖,颤抖”在自己的家乡爱尔兰变得尤为感性和强大。琼斯创造出一种氛围,这种氛围在爱尔兰法律徘徊摇摆的临界口得到了强化突出,使得作品极具变革性并且塑造了一种对观众而言时而吸引时而困惑的美学体验。这位艺术家的作品向来很难被人完全理解,这次展览也不例外。展览所涉及的各种素材参考,包括一块有着320 万年历史的化石 , 来自名为“露西”的南方古猿,是现已灭绝的早期人种的祖先; 展览还提及了1487 年的《女巫之锤》以及各种爱尔兰有关巨人的传说和寓言故事。作品中的一句话至今令人印象深刻:“你不会忘了我们,哪怕你试着把我们清扫干净。”

作为一个巡回展,“颤抖,颤抖”已经在威尼斯和新加坡亮过相,此后还将前往爱丁堡和西班牙的毕尔巴鄂。目前为止,这件装置作品每到一处不同的地点都经历了迭代,将展览所在地场域特定的因素纳入考量并进行细微的调整。在新加坡展出时,装置中添加了一张燃烧的桌子;在爱尔兰,则有表演者在现场饮用来自圣井的水,此外还有一堵展墙被持续地刻上圆圈以标记一轮轮表演的次数。而到了威尼斯,双年展每天会迎来将近3500 位访客,这使得展览在双年展爱尔兰馆中被观看的体验完全不同于在项目艺术中心的观看体验,后者的空间更具一种仪式感和冥想的气氛。


“颤抖,颤抖”所体现出来的气氛有两方面。作为一位社会参与性、批判性的艺术家,琼斯成功地捕捉了一个民族和一个国家的怒火所在,并为长久以来的暴行感到耻辱。然而,她同时还创造了一个既精巧又富有想象力的展览,所借鉴的是来自过往的历史叙事。“颤抖,颤抖”提醒我们,自己与历史是如此的接近, 而我们必须铭记历史。这个展览令我感到敬畏,它是寂静的,而我虽不能完全地理解但渴望知道更多。渴望成为这场迷人革命的一部分。渴望自己在变革法律方面发挥积极的作用。