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.

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.