Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones × Chris Fite-Wassilak
Being held in a series of waiting rooms, we were asked to sign some paperwork – not just the usual health and safety bumf, but to consent to be ‘available’ to being touched. Over the next hour, in a wood panelled room with a bunch of other people, we each submitted to making ourselves compliant and erase any sense of awkwardness or personal space that pervades interaction with others. Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones’s performance The Touching Contract (2016) asks for a heightened awareness of touch, and outlines how that is prescribed and permitted by the state (in iterations in both Ireland and the UK). In pandemic times, the performance came back to me as something worth reflecting on now – not as a nostalgia for in-person and physical events, but more to mediate that longing, to think about the ambivalence of touch, that it was never easy, or safe, but always inflicted with power.
Chris Fite-Wassilak is a writer and critic based in London, whose books include The Artist in Time (Herbert Press, 2020) and Ha-Ha Crystal (Copy Press, 2016). He is the co-organiser, with Anne Tallentire, of quarterly event 'hmn'.
Sarah Browne is an artist concerned with non-verbal, bodily experiences of knowledge, labour and justice. Her practice involves sculpture, film, performance and public projects, as well as forms of writing and publishing in diverse contexts. Browne’s work proposes that, even while bodies can hold onto trauma, there is the possibility of learning and practicing different ways to move. Sarah Browne co-represented Ireland at the 53rd Venice Biennale with Gareth Kennedy and Kennedy Browne, their shared collaborative practice. She is associate artist in residence with University College Dublin College of Social Sciences and Law.
Jesse Jones's 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. She represented Ireland at the Venice Biennale 2017 with the project " Tremble Tremble". Recent solo exhibitions include a solo presentation at Guggenheim Bilbao and a five year commission for kunsthalle Gent. Her teaching practice runs parallel to her work as an artist, this practice is based on Sherkin Island Cork as a lecturer for TU Dublin School of Creative Arts. She is currently preparing a new film installation for the Magdalen series in Rua Red.