For anyone who knew her – especially from the old Twitter mob, Jess Macdonald (@Jessikart) left us late in the evening of Tuesday the 2nd of January. She passed with her mum Meryl and her sister Abi by her side.
She was one of my best friends, a funny, feisty, riot girl, quick-witted with a sharp intellect, all wrapped up inside a kind, complex, utterly fucking hilarious human being.
A few of us, her mates, have been trying to contact as many friends as possible personally. Please accept our apologies if not, there’s a limit, and why? Because she was ridiculously well-loved, so many people whose lives she’d passed through, stopped a while, or dallied in.
Jess wasn’t just a friend, she has been a co-conspirator or collaborator on numerous fucking daft projects of mine over the last 10 or so years – Returned from the Front, Black Dog Tales, and The Bomb Map digitisation project to name but a few. Always as engaging as she was engaged in whatever it was – she often did a lot of unseen donkey work, sticking pins in digital maps, sorting through spreadsheets of data – the stuff I really don’t get on with – she relished, enthused about even. She was basically an immense support, her fingerprints and tracks are everywhere on Invisible Works in strands as far back as Blitz Ghosts.
Most importantly though, for me, she helped organise my first real solo exhibition – Vanishing Points, not just hanging and fixing, but cajoling and correcting me, supporting the wobbles in confidence, dealing with my stark terror – usually by making me laugh. Then, despite being socially anxious herself at times, she embedded herself into the whole thing and became the face of it. Basically threw herself in head first; met, greeted, chatted, explained and eulogised it to everyone and anyone who’d listen for the whole run, she knew it, got the narrative, and understood it almost as well as I did because she instinctively knew what it meant, understood how memory and the marks we make as humans work in a landscape.
There’s a good reason she understood this, the functions of memory and desire, our need to make a mark, to leave something of ourselves – memorialisation – our personal rituals and our desire to not be forgotten.
With Matt Champion, she was responsible for a lot of the work on the Medieval Graffiti project and really was an expert on much of it – This is especially true of the huge amount of graffiti which can be found in Norwich Cathedral. Her knowledge on this particular subject was immense, I suspect unmatched in fact, such was this particular obsessive part of her being, her mind. Most of it, as with all the best stuff was borne of memory – in Jess’ case the ship graffiti she remembered in churches on the north Norfolk coast as a child, those places of beginnings, joinings and endings that our generations occupy.
Jess was a quirky soul, very much an individual, always the flower in her hair, decked out in her fuck off ‘blimey, how many holes have those got?’ Doc Martins, and a roll-up on the go in her hand.
I loved her dearly – some people you just hit it off with immediately – she was one of those. I’ll miss her constant stream of daft shit, memes, the in-jokes only we got, the tellings off for being an old grump, but especially the raucous bouts of helpless laughter about whatever we found entertaining at any given moment; a random bout of hysterics at some Tory turning up at an exhibition opening, so posh neither of us understood him – which got us asked to go outside where we rolled about even more helplessly, her vocal disgust at Brussel sprouts, Ed Balls – generally, politician’s cum faces, her amazing lexicon of swearing, I dunno, everything really – I’ll miss that for all the days I have left.
She remains, like the graffiti she became an expert in, etched into Norwich, a city she loved. A complete and brilliant one-off.
In her own words:
“Different stories took hold of different people. Yours will never let me go, so I suppose it’s not goodbye, not really. It’s thank you. All we have left of you are footprints, fragments, fingerprints. But what more can anyone hope for than to have left some kind of trace of their story?”
– Put up with Rain (2019)
You have left so much more than a trace. Onward Jess, into the eternal kitchen disco.
Jess Macdonald 22.12.79 – 02.01.24