Student Spotlight: UI grad student explores space, time, and sound

UI graduate student Jacob Jones explores the intersection of visual art and music through their conceptual works despite scheduling changes due to COVID-19.




Jenna Post, Arts Reporter

Guitars suspended in midair and a band playing in an inflatable bubble is an unusual sight at the University of Iowa, but graduate student Jacob Jones brought that vision to life despite COVID-19 changing their plans last minute.

Jones’ intermedia performance, Space-Time (Space Lime),  was originally scheduled for the Friday before spring break at the UI began, but it was performed a day earlier than expected when the UI announced on March 18 that classes would be transitioning to an online format after an extended spring break.

Jones said the only issue with the rescheduling was that they had planned to rent a bounce house for the Friday performance, which couldn’t be delivered by Thursday. However, they were able to coordinate with their collaborators and attendees so the show could go on earlier than planned.

The intermedia performance included a combination of pre-recorded and live music. Speakers, guitars, and the band itself, of course were the sources of the music, but they were creatively placed to create a mosaic of sorts.

The instruments were hung from the ceiling with wire, so musicians could interact with them in midair. The speakers were designed to look like frowning faces and the band played from within an inflatable bubble.

Arranging instruments in that manner took a lot of precision, which left plenty of room for error. However, Jones said they didn’t fear failure.

“I like playing with failure because failure is so important,” Jones said. “It’s a radical thing to work with because we don’t encourage failure.”

Jones has spent their time in the school of art and art history creating a variety of intermedia projects that explore topics and concepts that they’re passionate about. Their most recent project explored the intersection of space and sound.

“This field really allows me to work within my interests,” Jones said. “I don’t have to sacrifice my interests to conform to a certain medium.”

Jones’ background in punk music plays a large role in their work. They joined a band at age 15, and participated in Comodity A, the band that played music from inside an inflatable bubble at Jones’ most recent performance. Jones also wrote original music for the project.

“On the one hand, I’m interested in punk subculture and rock and roll aesthetics and that sort of thing,” Jone said. “But I’m also interested in what guitars can become and how spaces can play a role in that.”

A love for pre-internet era science-fiction also played a role in Jones’ most recent project.

“I’m a huge science fiction fan,” Jones said. “This performance explores space-time. My very rudimentary understanding is that space and time aren’t separate, they’re intrinsically connected.”

Jones said one of the reasons they like they like sci-fi is because its authors are imagining what could be. Jones takes a similar approach in their own work.

“No one’s said no to me yet,” Jones said. “I keep trying to get them to say no, and no one has. It’s really special. It makes me really glad I came to the University of Iowa.”

After graduation, Jones hopes to continue creating intermedia performances.

“There’s a term that I like to use that was gifted to me by Jon Winet, called cultural animation,” Jones said,” which is the idea that booking events is cultural animation, you’re making culture happen… Bringing people together to do that is so important to me.”