There’s something remarkably contemplative and even beautiful about these impossible and violent cinematic renderings. Is this what trauma is then – utterly detached, disconnected, unfathomable? Doesn’t trauma catapault one out of the world of normative human relations and social space – where does one go – what alienated space does one enter? This sense of dissonance and alienation infuses the work of Jolley and Reynolds.
Strangely familiar, strangely uncanny, the film thus resembles those nightmares, whose ominousness is not lessened by being recognized by the dreamer as a dream. Recurring night after night, without one becoming conscious of them in the morning, they can become part of a reality, whose deep structure they depict as a negative utopia. Wanting to free oneself from this would mean emerging, breaking through the smooth surface from below and making the still water flow.
Without the usual laws of cause and effect, things stagger. Time takes on new dimensions. People appear fated to an afterlife where they never connect, where actions slip and blunder. In a place where trauma is repetition, water is the repressed that slips into every corner, every interaction, and every generation. As a hopeless refrain, in spite of it all, the filmmaker’s infuse this murky interior with flashes of dark humour, one-liners performed in the spirit of Buster Keaton.
When viewed in the context of recent global events, the family’s domestic isolation can be seen as a metaphor for political isolationism and a willful disconnection from the events of the world outside.
Indeed, have not certain astronomers and mathematicians recently asserted that time has its own inertia, that time is in fact matter, a different kind of material?
In an era when the production of terror through the distribution of images of extreme violence and brutal murder is gradually becoming a reality that we are forced to live with, how is it that such an image is still capable of producing a sensation akin to that of horror. Here, the distinction between terror and horror is important, the equation could very crudely be summed up as: man brutalises man = terror, animal brutalises man = horror.
There is a recurrent pattern in Jolley’s work, with its depiction of anonymous, marginalised individuals, left to their fate in the strange, dehumanised concrete jungles we have managed to create for ourselves. But beyond the particularity of relentless urbanisation that provides his imagery, his narratives stand as allegories for the tragi-comedy of life itself in a remote, indifferent universe.
Burn is a stunning evocation of those unspoken, unconfronted somethings, those secrets, worries and lies, forming a force which is always a part of the fabric of everyday interactions; at first niggling at the edges, then – provoked by a word or a gesture – suddenly searing through everything and everyone in its path.
Other notable items include an apocalyptic video of a dishware cabinet in flames, by Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley.
‘Burn’, a haunting video-projected film by Patrick Jolley and Reynold Reynolds, shows a husband and wife relaxing at home while everything, including their own clothing, their children and a man who has set their sleeping daughter on fire, goes up in flames around them.
Jolley and Reynolds have a DIY aesthetic and their decidedly low tech approach is incredibly labor intensive, seeming to invite logistical intrigue. For ‘The Drowning Room’, the pair used a shipping container filled with water with windows cut into the side to allow for natural light. They weighted their actors who had to use hidden breathing tubes. One of their unexpected discoveries is that New York City tap water is too opaque to shoot through.
“Throughout filming, our guide of approach was a notion we termed ‘psychic journalism’: to extrapolate from the actuality that we encountered into visual forms that, although fantastic, articulated and expanded the presence of the building”.
A young woman descends into madness in a gripping one-hour looped film by Reynold Reynolds and Patrick Jolley. That’s what seems to happen, anyway, as the film’s nonlinear narrative and mix of grainy black-and-white and lucid color tend to confuse what is real and what is hallucinated or dreamed.
The film sustains the tension between extremely different tones for a remarkable length of time, as if co-directors Reynolds and Jolley had taken control of audiences’ collective subconscious.
Occasionally a film comes along that acts as a reminder of where cinema is up to. It might not necessarily be forging ahead in prophetic innovation, but nevertheless encapsulates the state of the art form at a given point in its history with precision and intelligence. Paddy Jolley and Reynold Reynolds’ wonderful first feature, ‘Sugar’, is an example of such a film in tune with the state of cinema.
‘The Door Ajar’ is a visually stunning, haunting experience, very much of the senses featuring two strong central performances – one visual and one aural – Jolley bombards the screen with the words of Artaud himself gleaned from his poems, letters and essays as his journey through Ireland becomes Artaud’s journey into the belly of being itself.
‘The Drowning Room’ is haunting. These people don’t seem to know that they are drowning. “The film is a good metaphor for climate change,” says Klaus Biesenbach, director of MoMA PS1, the contemporary wing of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He included it in a summer-long arts festival that attempts to address the ecological challenges of the 21st century.
In the dark, flickering light of Patrick Jolley’s films, something gripping occurs. It’s not uncanny; it’s too active for that. It’s catastrophic. It causes an adrenalin rush with nowhere to go.
‘9 + 1 Ways of Being Political’ traces the last five decades of political public design in a nonlinear, thematically arranged manner, alternating between gallery white and eye-popping red walls. Organized by MoMA curators Pedro Gadanho and Margot Weller, the exhibition focuses more on functional structures and ideas that exist both in reality and only on paper from places as diverse as New york, Seville, Japan and Medellin, Columbia.
Submitted by his estate, curator Bassam El Baroni admitted that, not only was he “blown away” on first viewing the film, but ‘This Monkey’ suggested different curatorial avenues, other artworks, alternative ways of thinking about the exhibition. Those that visit EVA would not be blamed for thinking that Noah has come ashore in Limerick City.
EVA’s theme this year is ‘Agitationism’ and at a former factory, reclaimed for EVA as an exhibition space, the perfectly paced selection includes delicate yet strong pencil drawings by Ann Bottcher, powerful video works by Patrick Jolley and Doa Aly and Garreth Phelan’s zine-inspired innk drawings that cumulatively address the question of how art can agitate, disturb, make change.
The threshold between the illusionary and familiar was pivotal in Jolley’s work , which hinged on the proximity of seemingly contradictory elements and rendered it ungraspable despite our deepest urges to know it intimately.
To mark Pallas’s 20th birthday, four selectors looked back over art of the last 20 years, not just one. Every piece earns its place and manages to widen the context in some way. ‘Burn’, from 2002, by the late Patrick Jolley with Reynolds Reynolds, still possesses the power to shock.
Location was central to his creativity, and dystopian urban settings feature large in his films. While gravitating towards northern climes – notably Murmansk – he was also drawn to the warmth and light of India. Those who knew him often commented on the contrast between the brightness of his personality and the darkness of his work.
What happens when an artist, still under the age of fifty and making brilliant new work is suddenly gone, too soon and, for those around them, entirely unexpectedly? It happens, and when it does, one of the biggest challenges for those left behind is what to do with the art. In 2011 and 2012, within the space of three months, two of our most significant mid-career artists passed away. William McKeown died by suicide at his studio home in Edinburgh, aged 49. Patrick Jolley had a fatal heart attack while filming in New Delhi. He was 47.