Tremble, Tremble by Jesse Jones


Tremble, Tremble, Jesse Jones’s 2017 work which was first displayed in the Irish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, is currently at the Talbot Rice Gallery into which I wandered on Wednesday afternoon.

The work – part-film, part-installation, part-performance – is based in Talbot Rice’s Gallery 2, usually a rather staid Playfair-designed Georgian hall, has been transformed. Swathed in darkness, with two very large projection screens positioned at either end of its length, theatrical lights rise and fall, illuminating ivory-white sculptures of bony arms, an Irish declaration repealing the Witchcraft Act of 1586 and a scold’s bridle: an evil-looking metal implement used to torture women suspected of witchcraft. On the day I visited, I inhabited the space with a group of Spanish teenagers on, perhaps, the strange school trip they had ever been on.

On the screens is a film featuring a white-clad, witch-like, sorceress figure (played by Irish actress and performer, Olwen Fouere) – sometimes small, sometimes giant, the figure taunts and challenges – early in the piece she asks: “Did I disturb ye, good people? I hopes I disturbed ye.” And this is very much the aim of the work: to challenge and confront us with the history of female persecution and repression, through the witch trials of seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the modern day (the work was created before Ireland’s vote to remove the eighth amendment).

*Tremble, Tremble *feels big and theatrical – despite it being a rather challenging piece for a group of kids unable to speak English, the Spanish students with me were strangely gripped by the warp and weft of the video and were willing to be shifted around the space by a performer dressed all in black trailing curtains in their wake. While there was an inevitable amount of nudging and giggling at the witchy prancing on screen, they were stopped in their tracks when the performer took up an implement and scoured a shamanistic circle in the wall, its metal digging into plywood, scratching and scouring a record and a testimony.

Author: James Topham

James is a screenwriter and freelance. He has written films for Scott Free Productions and Addictive Films and developed TV with ITV Studios, Evolutionary Films and Channel 4. He writes a weekly tinyletter -

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