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In the shadow of the State/The touching contract is a collaboration between Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne that explores statehood from the perspective of the female body. Born of extensive research and collaborative work with experts from the fields of medicine, law, material culture and music, the final project consisted of a series of participatory live events in historically resonant spaces across Ireland and the UK. Staged through performance and sound, the artists explore the ways in which the State speaks to us through its language, architecture and institutions – and asks how we might answer back.


This collaborative project was informed by experts from multiple spheres of knowledge and experiences of State control. Collaborators included: academic Máiréad Enright, a specialist in the legal regulation of culture and religion; the North/Irish Feminist Judging Project together with midwife Philomena Canning; researcher and cultural historian Lisa Godson; along with many other activists and women from across the UK and Ireland. For the sonic elements and composition, the artists worked with Alma Kelliher, a composer, sound designer and musician based in Dublin.

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The Touching Contract proposed new ways of understanding the political gesture of touch through an immersive performance work. Staged in historically resonant spaces such as a maternity hospital in Dublin and a juvenile court in London, Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne investigated the political gesture of touch through this series of immersive performances. The work existed in two acts: the administration of a contract (and its agreement by participants), followed by participation in a performance by an ensemble of women. The contract formed the basis of participation, detailing how audience members chose the nature of their involvement, and was developed in discussion with an invited group of women in Derry, Dublin and in London. The group explored with the artists and the performers how women encounter the touch of the law every day, with and without consent. This contract with the State was then interpreted by an ensemble of female performers, who delivered a series of improvised, direct and non-forceful touches to participants.


The Touching Contract Jesse Jones and Sarah Browne, 2016, Dublin
photos by Miriam O’Connor

Production Credits

Curator (Derry) – Sara Greavu
Legal workshop facilitator – Máiréad Enright
Composer – Alma Kelliher
Performer – Louise Mathews
Sound cue operator – Sarah Browne / Jesse Jones
Ushers – Aphra Hill, Sarah Browne / Jesse Jones
Special thanks to all workshop participants, Shá Gillespie and the Nelis family


Written and directed by Sarah Browne and Jesse Jones
Featuring Lisa Godson and Klau Kinky
Executive Producer – Ailbhe Murphy, Create
Digital Producer – Charmian Griffin
Production Manager – Carl Davies, FACT
Production assistant – Suzanne Dempsey Sawin
Camera Operator – Rachel Givens
Vision Mixer – Julieann O’Malley
Sound recordist / mixer – Mel Paget
Communications – Charmian Griffin, Katrina Goldstone, Joanne Karchevia
Filmed and broadcast online by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology)
Shot on location at News from Nowhere Bookshop, Liverpool
Intro photographs © Miriam O’Connor
Medical illustrations by Wellcome Images
Music – Sissy, Sail and Rail
Costume – Anna Cosgrave,, in aid of the Abortion Rights Campaign, Ireland  
Thanks to Patrick Fox, Rachel Anderson, Cis O’Boyle, Michelle Doyle, Maria Ng and Next to Nowehere Community Centre


Producer – Caroline Williams
Composer – Alma Kelliher
Legal collaborator – Máiréad Enright
Graphic designer – Oonagh Young
Performers – Noelle Brown, Mary Duffin, Léann Herlihy, Sinéad Keogh, Deirdre Murphy, Rebecca Reilly, Noni Stapleton
Mediators – Emma Balfe, Claire Brophy, Kate Butler, Philomena Canning, Bronwyn Gaffney, Sara O’Rourke
Sound technician – Sinéad Diskin
Production coordinator – Kerrie Williams
Special thanks to Caroline Campbell 


Producer – Marina Doritis
Composer – Alma Kelliher
Legal collaborator – Máiréad Enright
Graphic designer – Oonagh Young
Performers – Grace Courtney, Odilia Egyiawan, Yinka Esi Graves, Noemi Gunea, Bernadette Iglich, Deirdre Murphy and Rahel Vonmoos
Mediators – Sarah Browne, Marina Doritis, Ruth Fletcher, Lisa Godson, Marie-Andree Jacob, Jesse Jones, Linda Mulcahy, Lynne McCarthy, Sara Ramshaw, Elaine Reynolds and Sorcha Uí Chonnachtaigh 
Costume – Elaine Reynolds
Stage Manager / Sound technician – Kirsty Chestnutt

Image: Performers and participants during rehersals for The Touching Contract, in The Court Room at Toynbee Studios, London (2016). Photograph: Miriam O’Connor


In the Shadow of the State is a co-commission between Artangel and Create. In the Shadow of the State is supported by ART: 2016 the Arts Council’s programme as part of Ireland 2016. The Truncheon and the Speculum was supported by ART: 2016, the Arts Council's programme as part of Ireland 2016, the centenary of the Easter Rising in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin City Council and Heart of Glass (St. Helen’s). 

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