Spotlight on Rachel Elizabeth Jones

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Rachel Elizabeth Jones is a writer and artist currently based in Vermont. As a writer, she has contributed articles about art and cinema to publications including Hyperallergic, The New Inquiry, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. As an artist, she works to create experience and exchange through objects, with an inclination towards practices of gleaning, physical and spiritual reclamation, and concepts of apocalypse. 

In Issue Two, Rachel responded to a series of photographs by Benjamin Stein.

On creating “Simple Apparatus for High-Contrast Scenarios”:

I could see almost nothing but a golden thread in the photographs I received. Technically, this “thread” exists only in the completed image, as the result of long exposure. There’s a body there, too, presumably the artist — but the imaginary ribbon of light is the brightest point of the composition. It could stand for anything: the flame of knowledge, sexual desire, life force, cherished secrets, the unknown. It’s unclear which entity is in control, if either.

In college, my best friend and I schemed up fragments of screenplay; one of these featured a young woman untangling gold thread while struggling to pay attention in a philosophy class. For us, this was about a contrast between a tactile, feminine work of untangling — “real” learning, maybe — and the impersonal, often male-driven inquiries of philosophy as an academic discipline. 

This same friend came to visit recently, nearly ten years later. We talked about light and dark as (questionably?) standard proxies for good and evil. Often a “black-and-white” thinker, my question was how to acknowledge very real evil at work in the world now without writing off individuals or failing to find compassion, particularly since polarization is such a destructive force. Her answer, paraphrased, was that evil can be an energy that moves through people and places without being of them. 

Simple Apparatus for High Contrast Scenarios playfully responds to these associations; it kind of burlesques removed, scientific approaches to complicated phenomena; it is scrappy and somewhat silly, its function more altarpiece than machine. The common thread with the previous work is literal: the golden thread, or in this case, yellow rope, connecting vessels of black and white, frayed edges smashed against their container. The roses don’t care which side they’re on.

On Issue Two as a whole:

I am typing with one hand (my right), soaking my left in something from the drugstore to remove my first gel manicure, which I got with Sadie in Mexico City. By miracle, I was able to see Lydia Kern’s Tocar el Suelo during my visit. Through tele-, I just learned that “capicúa” means palindrome, thanks to Luca Salas Bassani Antivari, who responded to my apparatus with his Capicúa — in all honesty, I hadn’t considered a palindrome as existing outside of text before. I appreciate it. 

I’m in awe of where and how the theme of chiaroscuro morphed and maintained itself in yellow and in symmetry: Luca’s palindrome became Michelle’s symmetrical dance; Francisco’s yellow tree called back to my “golden thread,” drawn from Benjamin’s candle in the dark. The cables that Eli’s red shirt and blue shirt hang from uncannily bear the shape as my apparatus’s yellow rope, which he wouldn’t have known. Sadie finds another palindrome in Austin’s video length, 1:01, and it’s strange to hear her voice from the computer. I learn of Lydia’s breast biopsy through her statement for “fruit play (shaking in the wind)” and how this had already happened when I saw her in February, a whole new installation into the future. Her friends wire the fruits like a telephone. 

Altogether, it’s hard not to think of translation as a metaphor for everything and my brain feels scrambled and invigorated, particularly as I read Faith and Madeleine’s conclusion that centers around metaphor. I like knowing that we were all united by a certain urgency in this process, even though a week for one person could be so much more or less time for another. 


After the transmission:

Simple Apparatus for High-Contrast Scenarios no longer exists! Between my cat and the heat from the woodstove melting the clay, it fell and shattered all over the floor of my house and I was picking up Perler beads for weeks.