The work of Jesse Jones (born 1978, Dublin, lives in Dublin) primarily takes the form of short films, works which renegotiate the material and ideological structures of cinema. They are concerned with how cultural artefacts can be restaged to reveal embedded histories of dissent - and their contemporary relevance. The artist isolates forms and subjects that can be utilised as tools, both in re-imagining and in directly intervening in the public sphere.
In 2006 Jones initiated 12 Angry Films. This ambitious collaborative project attempted to recuperate the 'drive-in' cinema - a form of mass entertainment associated with 1950s America - in order to investigate how it might be developed as a collective activity and transformed through radical content. Developed over a nine-month period, the production of the 'drive-in' films started with an invitation sent out to various Dublin trade unions and community groups (including some non-English speaking participants). The project developed around a series of workshops, including screenings and non-verbal drama sessions, and the final films were guided by a number of rules: they should be set in a car, should last three minutes, and should not be in English.
The resulting six short films tackle personal subjects as well as wider concerns about employment, globalisation and human experience. They formed the centre of a film programme, screened in a temporary drive-in cinema constructed by Jones in Dublin's Docklands. The programme also included a series of features themed around radicalism and protest, including Salt of the Earth (1954), Herbert J Biberman's film about strike action in a New Mexico mine. As Maeve Connolly remarked, 12 Angry Films is 'simultaneously a critique of cinema history, a site-specific public artwork and form of political action', and epitomise Jones' interest in the recuperation of theatre and cinema as spaces of popular imagination.
Jones' own short films are largely non-narrative vignettes, and often employ a particular location as an arena for performance. For On the Waterfront (2005) the artist invited members of a boys' brass band to perform the score from Elia Kazan's 1954 film of the same name - about trade unionism in America - in an open space between two housing blocks. The resulting film depicts the space as a resonant amphitheatre, the ethereal music helping to create a web of social and political histories.
For Nought to Sixty Jones is showing a new work, The Spectre and the Sphere (2008). The film looks at the history of Marxism, and includes artefacts that trigger a number of ideological echoes. The soundtrack employs a ghostly recording of The Internationale, performed by Lydia Kavina on the Theremin, and the film explores Vooruit, a castle in Belgium that was built by Socialists in the early twentieth century and is now a flourishing arts centre. Jones has chosen to accompany her screening at the ICA with a showing of The New Babylon (1929), a satirical film by Soviet filmmaker Grigori Kosintsev about the defeat of the Paris Commune in 1871.
As part of her Nought to Sixty screening of The Spectre and the Sphere, Jesse Jones presented The New Babylon (1929), a silent film with live accompaniment from Oort. Listen to a short excerpt from Oort’s soundtrack to the The New Babylon (mp3).