The Cardinal Rule: Please Do Not Touch the Art

So you want to touch the art… I understand—art is alluring, especially when it’s constructed with materials that shine, move, swirl, jiggle, or have a thrilling texture. But touching the art causes more damage than most people realize. It is our duty as museum staff to preserve and keep safe the artworks that are displayed in our galleries. And it is our duty as members of the art community to respect local, national, and global artists who take the time to visit the museum and trust all of us with the future of their creations. Below is a short list of the many reasons why we need to honor the cardinal rule.

  1. Human skin is dirty.

Our hands and fingers are covered in layers of soil, skin cells, dirt, and grease that we normally take for granted—hence why it’s recommended that you Lysol doorknobs when your family is sick. That grease and grime are not only visually unattractive because they make the art look dirty—they actually can cause physical and chemical damage to each unique work of art. So before you think about leaving your greasy fingerprint as a momentum of your museum visit, remember: Touching the art will adversely affect how future museum-goers view the artwork.

Rona Pondick’s sculptures are shiny and reflective—making fingerprints on their surfaces much more visible. | Rona Pondick | “Prairie Dog” | Photo courtesy of Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Sonnabend Gallery, Zevitas/Marcus Gallery, and the artist.

  1. Our touch melts away the magic.

Physically touching a piece of art will melt away the magic—quite literally, in fact. The heat from our hands can easily melt oil paint, charcoal sketches, the gilding on frames, and even the texture of certain pieces of art. For instance, one of our recent A-I-R Space artists was Cara Krebs, whose work was constructed out of molded Jell-O. Imagine if someone had placed their palm on top of the art or stuck their finger into the side of it—the mold would have been destroyed. The fate of delicate works of art may truly lay in the palms of our hands.

Cara Krebs’ whimsical sculptures lure viewers in, but are easily breakable to the touch. | Cara Krebs | Sehnsunct | Photo courtesy of the artist

  1. It’s dangerous!

Sometimes, when visiting a museum, we are not fully aware of what materials were used to construct a work of art. Imagine how unfortunate it would be if you saw a fluffy teddy bear as part of an installation, touched it, and discovered that it was actually a bear comprised of sharp glass and needles. Don’t take a trip to the hospital because curiosity killed the cat—spend your visit to the museum, surrounded by artworks at a safe distance.

Jennifer Seely’s wall of nails is definitely meant to be seen and not touched. | Jennifer Seely | Supporting Elements

  1. If your kid breaks something, it’s still your fault.

Children can be squirrely, especially when they are around objects that make them excited—and art is very exciting! Art museums welcome all ages, and that includes your kiddos. But be aware of how your kids are behaving. Remind them that they cannot touch the art or run around. If a child accidentally knocks something over, the broken artwork is ultimately now the parents’ responsibility. Keep your kids close, teach them to respect art, and allow them to expand their creative minds.

Mike Lee’s A-I-R Space exhibition had many artworks around the floor, requiring a more diligent use of space when viewing the exhibition. | Mike Lee | Digital Mirror: Selfie Consciousness

  1. It’s irreplaceable—so don’t break it.

There have been countless accidents caused by reckless or careless behavior in the world of art and history. Remember the ex-Boy Scout leaders that pushed over an ancient boulder in Southern Utah? Or the time when a tourist in Florence broke the finger off of a 600-year-old statue at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo? These objects are irreplaceable and priceless. If you break a work of art, there is no chance of getting it back to the way the artist originally created it. Artists dedicate countless hours, days, sometimes months of time on their work, and to have that work destroyed in mere seconds due to reckless curiosity would be devastating. This leads me to my last and possibly most important point…

Each of Alyce Carrier’s ceramics are one-of-a-kind; if this vase had broken, there would never be another one exactly like it. Alyce Carrier | Untitled | Ceramic

  1. It’s just plain rude.

Imagine that you’re a doctor and there happens to be a child running through each room in the hospital, poking the faces of each of your patients. Or imagine that you are a construction worker and people continually stop by your work site to pick up your power tools, lean on unsteady building structures, or to try and take the crane for a ride. Or imagine that you are a cake decorator, and with every cake you finish, a customer sticks their finger into it just to see what it tastes like. No one would think that these behaviors are rational or acceptable; all of these behaviors are annoying, dangerous, destructive, or a combination of all of the above. Being an artist is an occupation like any other, and their work deserves to be respected just like anyone else’s.

 

Touching the art might make you feel pleased as punch for a few seconds, but the aftermath is nothing to feel proud of at all. When you touch a work of art and damage it in any way, you ruin the viewing quality for every future museum-goer. It also decreases the value of the artwork, negatively affecting the artist and their ability to take the work to a new gallery or forcing them to spend more time on fixing (or laying to rest) a once-perfect piece.

 

But there is good news for everyone out there who finds themselves allured by the prospect of touching a work of art: you can be a hero, just like all of the heroes before you who respected the cardinal rule. These individuals have allowed you to see the works of art in their original form. They are the reason contemporary artists can travel from city to city, displaying their work as though it is the first time. They help ensure that our art communities, local and otherwise, become closer by connecting through art exhibitions, and expanding the wide range of audiences that visit the museum each day. So, be a hero by honoring the cardinal rule: Do not touch the art.

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Devin McPolin exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects Gallery.

Contemporary Reactions: Art is Not Always Pretty

Alyce Carrier’s Old Work, a recent exhibit at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, has caught the attention and curiosity of visitors. One local, Devin McPolin, heard of the museum’s existence and came to see what it held inside. He states that he rarely goes to art museums, but he was interested due to his significant other’s recommendation of UMOCA. McPolin, a college student, wandered around and came upon Carrier’s exhibit. “It can turn you away or grab your attention,” he says.

The artist’s style drew him in because it is “odd” and “not pretty.” McPolin explains that the exhibition’s art doesn’t fit the standard mold of other art styles. The people drawn in Carrier’s Old Work are shaped abnormally and portrayed in blacks, whites and browns. “The people drawn here aren’t normal people,” McPolin says.

“They are odd-shaped; it looks like a young kid’s drawing—like someone’s first drawing—but you know it’s not. It’s purposely done that way to depict these odd shapes. Even though you know it’s a human figure, it’s not depicted as a normal human being would be drawn.”

He talked about his fascination with non-traditional art style—or, as he likes to describe it, odd. McPolin is intrigued by Carrier’s wall art and her other artwork, such as her ceramics. Amused by the asymmetrical pottery, he describes how imperfect the pottery is, especially if it were sliced in half. Everything intrigued him, from the divots to the unique crookedness of it all. McPolin understood the exhibit through reading the artist’s description as well as understanding daily life. The emotion he felt was a strangeness due to the differences in each artwork, yet he related with them on an empathic level. “Like the artist said: ‘A hand on the shoulder depicts a different feeling if it’s from someone you love or a stranger,’” he says.

Alyce Carrier | VideoThe video, in particular, held his interest. He describes the characters in the video as acting out mundane daily tasks, but they portray these tasks from a different view—almost a little disgusting. The video invokes the emotions McPolin experienced in the exhibit, and he related the video to the mural on the wall. In the mural, the person drawn in black simply walks in without checking what the tiny circles are and panics at the last minute when they are waist deep in circles, whereas the person drawn in white investigates the tiny circles and wonders what they are before walking in. McPolin compares this dynamic to how people are when it comes to our daily routines. Some simply continue their lives without paying attention to what’s around them;  others are always curious, always looking, and notice what’s around them. “It’s strange—like the stranger’s hand on your shoulder—but not enough to make you freak out and run away,” he says. “It’s odd enough to make you ponder and wonder what’s going on and take a closer look.”

View Alyce Carrier’s Old Work in UMOCA’s Projects Gallery until January 14. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2fJvKX4. –Krystal Linares

Jodi exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects Gallery

Contemporary Reactions: Mundane Intimacy

Alyce Carrier’s exhibit, Old Work, in the Projects Gallery has received an array of reactions, but the majority of patrons’ comments reflect on how clever and profound her work can be. By incorporating 3-D sculptures, prints, and a stop-animation film, Carrier is able to speak to viewers on many different levels.

Jodi exploring Alyce Carrier's "Old Work" in UMOCA's Projects GalleryJodi, a visitor to Salt Lake City from Albuquerque, shared her insight on Carrier’s work, specifically her feelings and thoughts regarding the stop-animation film. Her initial reactions to the film were that it is charming and invites you to watch the story unfold.

“There are things that the characters are doing—things you [might] be doing—without expecting to have an observer,” says Jodi. “It’s intimate.”

Carrier’s work, although illuminating mundane activities, has the ability to connect with the viewer at a deeper and, as Jodi mentioned, a more intimate level. It shows all of us, at the root, are human and we have emotions that are displayed in various manners.  We do daily tasks that are mundane, but they are part of life’s existence.

Alyce Carrier’s Old Work is nicely juxtaposed with the other exhibits at UMOCA. Her work is charming, humbling, and—for many—a warming experience. Carrier does a fine job of displaying human nature through her craft. View Alyce Carrier’s work in UMOCA’s Projects Gallery until January 14. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2fJvKX4. –Alexa Rawl

What Our Interns Have To Say

UMOCA prides itself on providing members of our community with interests in museums and the arts with door-opening opportunities. Our internship programs offer a variety of temporary work placements in numerous departments of the museum, from Front Desk and Marketing to Curatorial and Graphic Design, our interns get real-life, hands-on experience in their future fields. And who better to tell you about it than the interns themselves? We asked some of our summer interns to write about their experience with UMOCA and share their stories.

 

Visitor Services Intern, Emina Tatarevic discusses her overall experience interning at UMOCA. 

I am often asked by peers how I came to learn about the internship opportunities at The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art. The short answer is always something along the lines of, “I just looked on their website and applied” but, in actuality, UMOCA has been somewhat of a constant in my life since the early days of elementary school.  As a child I attended an after school program that often collaborated with local organizations to create meaningful activities for students, one of these organizations happened to be UMOCA (then known as the Salt Lake City Art Center). I was invited, along with a group of fellow students, to work with the education coordinator at the time as part of a student-run exhibition. This opportunity allowed me to experience a behind-the-scenes perspective and sparked a life-long interest in art museum work.

Edit copyAs a Visitor Services intern, I had the opportunity to participate in some of UMOCA’s most acclaimed summer 2016 events including: Ririe Woodbury Dance Company’s in-house performance Interstice, Fluid Art, and the Annual Gala. Not only was I invited to attend each of these important events, but I also played a key role in assuring that these evenings were executed as successfully as possible. Due to UMOCA’s small and intimate staff size, I was able to work with each member of their team during these times. While the glamorous events have a tendency to stand out as memorable moments of my internship, the time I spent at the front desk was just as rewarding. Every weekend I spent a portion of my day greeting visitors, answering questions, and chatting with our patrons about their thoughts and experiences. Additionally, I was encouraged to write blog posts about these conversations, marking some of my most engaging interactions. UMOCA has an impressive presence that impacts visitors, both nationally and internationally, witnessing this influence was an unexpected but invaluable addition to the knowledge I gained while at the museum. As my internship comes to a close, I know that this opportunity to work with professionals in my field of interest will be beneficial in my future, and I am beyond grateful for the chance to learn from UMOCA’s staff, artists, contributors, and patrons.

 

Visitor Services Intern, Haylee Canonico interviews development and gala coordinator Michelle Sully  

During my internship at UMOCA, I was able get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into putting on the museum’s event of the year, UMOCA’s Annual Gala. I saw how the Salt Lake City community can come together to support local and international artists, find friendship and generosity in each other, and encourage exploration of what it means to exist in today’s world. This year UMOCA’s theme, 1931, inspired us to look into the past and remind us of where we started, but also recognize how far we have come as a museum, a community, and as a society. To get the inside scoop on the Gala I interviewed Michelle Sully, our Development Coordinator. Michelle not only writes grants, but is our gala coordinator so she knows all things gala. I asked Michelle to answer a few questions that would help readers understand what goes into Annual Gala from start to finish. The gala is our biggest event of the year and your continued support is the key to UMOCA’s success.

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How far in advance do you start planning the gala?

“We start planning for the gala in August. That is when we come up with a theme and title. We try to get together about once or twice a month from August – January and then two to four times a month starting in February.”

What goes into planning?

“There’s a ton of little things that goes into the planning. Things that have to be done are also affected by the venue we choose; if it is held at UMOCA we have to get a liquor permit, have the landscaping tidied up, and get a noise waiver.

Recruiting committee members as soon after the gala as possible is the first step. Once we have a committee, we decide the theme. We meet with the curatorial department to start getting a list of artists we would like to ask to participate in the auction and start working on a logo for the event, sponsorship documents and website information.

From there we work on catering, mood boards for décor, and mailing lists for Save the Date’s and Invitations. In February, we find and secure a venue and start getting items for the silent auction. In March, invitations are sent out and in April we secure an auctioneer and emcee for the night and draft a list of duties for volunteers. Art works are also due the end of April for the May exhibition.”

What’s your favorite thing about the gala?

I don’t really have one favorite thing. I love it when the art works come in. It’s exciting to see work by new artists and what local artists are creating. I also enjoy the first look at the decorated venue just before guests start arriving. When you’re working on something, you tend to overlook the beauty of it.

How does the theme, 1931, relate to the Fallout?

The Fallout had the raw, contemporary feeling to it that we wanted, though, in contrast, the things that made it feel that way also made it feel like a speakeasy. It is pretty nondescript from the front; you don’t really pay special attention to it if you drive by. Inside, it was a little dark with exposed brick and industrial elements, much like the basements of buildings where speakeasies were found.

What happens to the money donated at the UMOCA gala?

The money made at the gala goes back into our exhibitions and educational programs. These programs benefit people of all ages and demographics. UMOCA hosts school tours, Family Art Saturday, Out Loud, artist lectures, and a number of other programs.

 How can guests benefit from donating?

At the gala, guests can benefit by purchasing auction items, including original art works, experience packages from other non-profits, and art-filled trips. Many guests don’t purchase anything, they simply donate money. Those guests get the benefit of knowing they donated to a cause that is vital to our community.

Can people continue to donate?

Not for the gala, but they can donate directly to UMOCA year-round.

How? They can donate by visiting: www.utahmoca.org. Under the support tab, click “Give”. They can also donate directly at the museum, send in a check, or contact me at michelle.sulley@utahmoca.org.

 

Far from just a glamorous night out, UMOCA’s internship programs leave our interns with memories, knowledge, experience, and skills to last them a lifetime as they navigate their way through the professional world. If you, or someone you know is interested in contemporary arts, do not hesitate to look into our next round of internships. You may find that we have something just right for you too.

 

Artistic Renewal: The Helper Arts and Music Festival

There is a dense history of Helper Arts and Music Festival –  a reliable annual event for the last twenty years – that sits at the intersection of artistic education and community aid. The festival symbolizes more than an arts and crafts fair, but stands as an act of resilience within a community and proves the worth of art among a county. Helper symbolizes a community of artists that reinvigorate the town and add dimension through the vessel of contemporary art.

 

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The Helper Arts and Music Festival’s mission is to encourage progression within Carbon County through both realms of art and culture. Supporting local artists is the festival’s’ direct line to enrich the local economy while simultaneously educating and bringing forth access of art to the public, regardless of an art education or income level.

 

Showcasing mediums ranging from painting, sculpture, dance, and music, the festival focuses on exposing artists beyond traditional notions of ageism in art; there is a presence from a younger generation of artists, who host an annual youth art exhibition through the Art Smart classes, which are coordinated alongside the local school systems. A hands-on experience is also available at the Children’s Art Yard. The Helper Arts and Music Festival has been an annual event for the last twenty years, providing the only event in Carbon County that promotes locality within the arts. This festival transcends concepts of the frivolous and has served the community as a catalyst for reviving the once struggling town of Helper, Utah.

 
Bringing in locals, Utahns, and Western neighboring state citizens alike, the Helper Arts and Music Festival showcases and sells only handmade works by local artists. The open-air art market ignites the weekend of August 19th and concludes on the 21st, providing plenty of time to support Salt Lake’s neighboring county.

 

Find more information regarding the Helper Arts and Music Festival on their website.

The Rebirth of Narcissus: Jim Williams’ Self-Portraiture

 

_MG_9895Within Salt Lake City’s Avenues neighborhood there remains an unassuming stout chalk white house. Fragmented groups of individuals inched across the street and then lingered around the home, seeming uneasy about entering. It felt akin to a scene out of an M. Night Shyamalan film, and that’s how I knew I was in the right place: at artist, Jim Williams’ house tour. Only ten people were allowed to peek into Williams’ unorthodox studio tour at a given time. Of course, he was the guide, giving information that resembled a personalized secret. Before the tour began, Williams had us sign in and wait for the remaining people. There was a specific element of discomfort waiting in his living room, most likely due to the general way people interact with art inside the walls of museums and galleries; where were the white walls and illuminating studio lights? Williams’ house was the exact opposite of a gallery, it was anthropomorphized.

Throughout the tour there were five major rooms where self-portraits were displayed like dadaists collages. Within the thicket of these two dimensional pieces, there lives an intersection between sculpture and photography. Williams’s face is transposed onto the forms of plaster and geometric paper masks, which are donning at least one of the following: mop tendral hair, wooden kindling arms, or the epitome hippie shoe, birkenstocks. Akin to scarecrows, these life-size figures represent Williams at different ages. He argues that many of his works “hark back to the innocence,” and this is evident above the light switch where the biblically charged body of David is pasted on the wall with what appears to be Williams’ third grade school portrait as the head.

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Despite Williams’ charm and humble demeanor, he can’t escape the stigma and and largest challenge self-portrait artists must slay, the argument that the work exists beyond the ego. He suggests that one needs a sense of humor to approach the work, but Williams also stated that “there are times when the idea of self-absorption has to be considered. It would come into my thoughts, whether I wanted it to or not. I have thousands of photographs of myself, how do you live with that?” Walking on the squeaky wooden floor, it’s arduous not to think of narcissism as an aspect to Williams’ retrospective. What is unique regarding Williams’ archive is how early it begins and the appropriation of self-portraiture and personal objects which to some could be seen as junk. There are John Waters Worship Instructions and metal hybrids between childhood and stagnant sculpture. The self and other resides within Williams and that is what differentiates his work from utter egocentric themes. He incorporates personalities outside of the myopic individuality and fuses the self with objects.

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If you’re looking for an unorthodox house tour with a charismatic and thoughtful tour guide look no further. If you’re thirsty, Williams offers you a bottle of water with his personal headshot cemented to the one-time use plastic object. He will show you his favorite Vivian Maier book and rip off part of his archive and give it to you, poetically intertwining your archives together. Williams’ piece is a rarity in the art realm, the concept of taking the viewer into an artist’s home while they are still alive is an oddity. There is an elemental difference between 265 I and a gallery setting which is the aspect of livable art, where one is immersed in the practice of the artist and has the opportunity to see recherché sketches which will ultimately become brittle and turn to dust. The pieces that live within Williams’ home give one a sense of nostalgia for something that isn’t your own recollection. The tour is an experience that successfully lives where the artist resides and it’s questionable if his retrospective could have appeared anywhere but there.

 

All images courtesy of Cara Despain

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Tours are available throughout the summer to only ten people at a time – reserve a spot by sending an RSVP email to Jared.Steffensen@umoca.org. The visits to Williams home will be from 7:00 – 8:00 PM on June 30th, July 14th, and August 11th. For more information regarding what’s on exhibtion at the UMOCA, visit utahmoca.org/current.

Beyond These Curated Walls

When considering the term contemporary art museum, the first thing that comes to mind for most people is likely a sterile, quiet space imbued with challenging and relevant artwork. Here at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA) we take that a step further by exploring our own definition as an establishment. While providing the Salt Lake City area with the most informative artistry currently available on the market remains one of our top priorities. We believe that being contemporary means being a leading member of our community by actively engaging in culture to better society.

 

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COMMUNITY

As diverse as the community we serve, UMOCA’s educational and outreach programs extend our presence beyond the confines of our walls. We support sustainability efforts by supplying our neighbors with healthy nutrition through our Eat Art Together (E.A.T.) initiative. We value family by hosting Stroller Tours, and Family Art Saturdays, so you can spend quality time with your loved ones. And we speak for members of the LGBTQ community by providing an outlet, OUT LOUD, where young artists can feel safe openly expressing themselves.

 

OPPORTUNITY

UMOCA opens doors by administering a variety of highly valuable volunteer and internship opportunities. Our artist in residence program (A-I-R) not only grants local and international artists alike a workspace and venue for their art, but also helps them to form meaningful connections with the art world at large making our artists and employees a global force to be reckoned with.

 

The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art is much more than a museum. It is your muse, your friend, your ally, and your future. It is your next step.

 

written by: Letice Blanchard

Linguistics of Contemporary Art

The question that has been asked so many times and yet still has so many people wondering: What is contemporary art?

Nowadays, contemporary art has a different definition according to who you ask. Most commonly, it is defined as art made from the 1970’s and on. However, “in its most simple and basic terms, [contemporary art] is art being made today,” explains UMOCA’s Curator of Public Engagement, Jared Steffensen. Yet, defining it becomes a little more complex than that. When it comes to contemporary art, there is typically a message behind the piece. Jared further explains, “The artist is using a specific visual language to help you understand what that concept or idea is. It’s art that is engaged in contemporary issues and things that are facing everybody right now.”

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However, many people define contemporary art as works created through unusual mediums with opaque messages behind them. The term “contemporary” has essentially become synonymous with “avant-garde.” This is unsurprising when you think about how art is taught and consumed today.

Jared claims that without formal education, it’s common to feel as if you “don’t’ understand or get the work,” since there is a certain artistic rhetoric that comes with viewing and discussion art. Similar to learning a foreign language, it’s pivotal for an individual to learn the dialogue.

 

“As an educator, what you see is that because we do have that formal education that is about reproductions of nature in some shape or form, coming in and seeing something that is totally outside that experience might make anybody say, “I don’t get it” or, “I don’t understand it,”” says Jared.

Due to formal art education practices, people are used to instantly understanding the purpose or meaning of an artwork, so encountering a work that is meant to be pondered for an extensive amount of time can be daunting. However, most visitors find that if they slow down and take the time to consider each piece individually, contemporary art becomes much more rewarding and digestible. UMOCA even hosts a course called Art Fitness Training aimed at teaching adults how to uncover the meaning behind contemporary art, because it is something that gets easier with practice.

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Frustration or an indifference to a piece can produce an elemental uneasiness that makes artistic pedagogy arduous. Museums and galleries are invested in the public’s experience and artistic relatability which is why didactics are universally parallel to a collection work. The didactic – most commonly found on panels or gallery walls – will provide the viewer with all the historical, educational, or conceptual information they would need to interrupt a piece. It’s a constructive exercise to imagine the artist’s perspective; it’s hard to imagine any artist would create a piece with the intention of frustrating viewers. Yes, these pieces attempt to make the viewer consider new ideas or problems, but they are not meant to be inaccessible. They are meant to encourage thought on certain topics, but to let the viewer decide what is being said.

We encourage anyone who does not feel that they “get” contemporary art to come check out UMOCA. You might be surprised to find that we house film, sculpture, and photography installations amongst the less traditional mediums. If nothing else, you will have experienced something new.

Contemporary Reactions: Free Speaking

Here at UMOCA, we are very excited about the film, The Unspeakable Freedom Device by artist Jennet Thomas now showing in the Codec gallery. Ben Smith, a Virginia native now living in Farmington, Utah, is also elated about the piece. Smith is a student at Brigham Young University studying for a Public Health degree. Some of his hobbies include the creation and editing of film, something he often does with his older brother. “I really liked how the film felt like I was transported into another world,” Smith commented, “I thought the video game-like music really added to that feeling and helped me imagine that I was in a different place.”

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Thomas’s piece is indeed otherworldly. The Unspeakable Freedom Device, details the journey of two women who are traveling to the same place, though they have different plans – one is searching for validation and the other for rebellion. The film explores British political thought patterns as well as opinions of the authenticity of political leaders. In Thomas’s world the people have been robbed of their basic freedoms, including freedom of speech and privacy. “It makes me think differently about different types of control; different people selling things or having political power. It makes me think about what they are saying and how honest they are actually being with what they are doing,” Smith said, expressing ideas about sincerity as seen in the film.

The Unspeakable Freedom Device is a work of satire meant to show exaggerated conditions in a way that is both humorous and ridiculous. Some of these conditions include grammatical imperfections, eccentric costumes, and the protagonist, Mary’s peculiar and erratic behavior. “I thought the costumes were pretty funny. I liked how bright the colors are because I think it makes a strong impact. They look like aliens,” Smith noted as he watched one character in a red suit fabricated of rubber gloves come onto the screen. Overall, The Unspeakable Freedom Device is an amusing and powerfully thought provoking piece that helps challenge our perception of personal libertyUntitled-1 and the trust we place in our political leaders.

The film with be showing until July 30th with a special discussion by the artist herself on Wednesday, June 22 from 7-8pm explaining her inspiration, ideas regarding the film, and her career as a filmmaking artist. To learn more about the event visit the page.

 

 

Blue Iron: Ancient Hymns & Brexit Politics

Entering the interior of UMOCA, there is an echo of a Medieval Gregorian chant sourcing from down the hall. One might ask oneself what a stale antiquity is doing within a contemporary art museum and that’s a great inquiry for artist, Jennet Thomas creator of the convergence between ancient hymns and politically charged experimental narrative films. Thomas’ The Unspeakable Freedom Device, is currently on view at UMOCA in the Codec Gallery where majority of the room is dedicated to the film and the rest is an installation of a miniature landscape of televisions flashing primary colors. There are elements of the uncanny and the utter bizarre that exists within Thomas’ work and that is what forms entertaining qualities. We have the pleasure of hosting the artist for a lecture and discussion around her filmmaking practice, themes within her pieces, and how art intersects with the political domain.

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Sprouted from South London’s anarchist underground and experimental media club scene in the early 90’s, Thomas emerged as co-founder of the Exploding Cinema Collective formerly known as PULLIT, a media collective that screened their Super 8 films in a dilapidated suntan oil factory in Brixton. The conclusion of the twentieth century ignited a new Avant-Garde filmmaking practice where the uprooting generation felt nationalist embarrassment; these artists were pigeonholed to either create gallery aesthetics or commercial videos due to media censorship, thus they rejected the status quo and formed an accessible space of their own where the public was invited. Thomas’ early films were open to debates between the audience and herself after the screenings, which formed an intimate connection between artists and public. It was during this era of the artistic commune that Thomas’ political agency became visible in the public sphere where she refused to conform to high art or lucrative commercialism.

Mary and Glenda lead by Doll (higher res)jpg copyCurrently, Thomas primarily produces films, performances, and installations that unify connections between the radically political and animated fantasy with a heavy-handed historical context that cannot be missed. Her films are reminiscent of a Spanish soap opera, Telenovela with an amateur family video quality. It’s through the vessel of the camera shakes and the antithesis of CGI that the viewer can identify the humor and experimental qualities within Thomas’ work. There is an unwicing confrontation with contemporary British politics in her films where satire feels akin to having blankets ripped from one’s body in the early morning.

 

In conjunction to being a dedicated artist, Thomas also serves as a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Wimbledon College of Art and University of the Arts located in London. She explores themes of why the monarchy is mythologized and fetishized, and how the rhetoric of everyday language reinforces these notions. Thomas’ work is endeavoring to answer these rhetorical questions of belief systems and political structure and how it affects us individualistically. Her films have been screened at a plethora of international film festivals, primarily in the US and Europe. Thomas’ most recent solo screenings have taken place throughout England with The Unspeakable Freedom Device at the Grundy Art Gallery in London, School of Change at Matt’s Gallery in London, OUTPOST in Norwich, and at PEER in London.

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Still from ArtQuest London’s Trade Secrets with Thomas.
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Join us on June 22nd, 2016 for a lecture and open discussion with artist, Jennet Thomas on her filmmaking career and what happens when the political intersects with art. The event will commence around 7:00 PM and conclude at 8:00 PM.