Doug Jones’s new series of work revolve around issues of equality, accessibility and availability. Through the media of video, installation, needlepoint embroidery and quilt-making, Jones’ show CAETERIS PARIBUS (everything else being equal) weaves together experiences of personal failure of involvement in public events, irreverent comments on British heritage production and observations on ubiquitous patterns of restriction inscribed in the social arena by legislative mechanisms and police jurisdiction.
Over-writing needle-point tapestries with a series of variations on the geometric grid motif of poultry mesh, Jones manages to activate comforting symbols of British-ness such as picturesque villages, quaint cottages and countryside scenes, into a discourse on home ownership, social exclusion and immigration in the UK. Anger is laced with exasperated humour, as in the work titled ‘Domine Dirige Nos’, (God guide us) where an actual piece of ecclesiastical furniture is made available to kneel on, better to observe an iconic 1970s tapestry of horses running in the sunset. Time has revealed a subliminal lining to this image of freely roaming ‘animal spirits’: the black stallion logo of Lloyds TSB bank is lurking where things are best concealed, in the very centre. Economics are exposed as a matter of faith.
Two new videos have taken Jones out in the ostensibly open realm of public events and shared resources. ‘Royal Wedding’ is a record of the artist’s repeatedly rebuffed attempt to join in with this celebration of the British monarchy’s continuity. A Buster Keaton-esque figure, occasionally distracted by the attention of photographers to his mismatched regalia, but unwaveringly determined to cheer the new couple; Jones describes a solitary perimeter among the crowds moving around the streets of central London cordoned off by police, check points, security, high metal barriers, that keep him at the margins until it’s all over. The video ‘Datur Omnibus’ is a collection of observations of people using public water fountains in the intense heat of summer in Venice. A recent Italian referendum on the privatization of water supplies raised once again the issue of who controls and profits from natural resources, but also, what these resources are, and where do basic needs begin and end.
A quilted blanket in a violent hi-visibility yellow fashioned in the shape of a series of Gothic arches and installed in ASC’s Window Gallery, almost as if supporting the building, offers a loud commentary to Erlang House’s 60’s architectural presence. The piece raises questions on the future of the building itself, and on what is considered worth saving within accepted narratives of architectural heritage in London’s ever-changing urban landscape. Contradictions inhabiting the soft comfort of agreed-upon notions of heritage are also explored in the complex installation and event ‘Dinner for Twenty’. A long table is set for dinner, each individual setting covered with a profusion of commemorative tableware celebrating different institutions and events, from Coal miners’ strikes to pancake races, from banking through to Wesley’s Methodist Movement. Visitors to the exhibition are invited to take it in as a melancholic homage to disappearing practices, and to the tradition of the pottery industry itself. But the table becomes alive when a Dinner for Twenty is hosted. Twenty guests are invited to seat and to literally wear the table-cloth which extends into aprons and hats. Here Jones’s gesture of invitation is charged with ambiguity, playing with the potential to build a community tied together with their apron strings.
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