Something rather disturbing happened over the summer –THE UNSPEAKABLE FREEDOM DEVICE – an experimental narrative film and multimedia installation, commissioned from Jennet Thomas, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Wimbledon, by the Grundy Gallery, Blackpool for a solo show in September – November 2014, was prevented from opening by the local council (which funds the gallery). It was postponed until after the general election due to, as the council put it, ‘heightened local Political sensitivities’. The Grundy Gallery staff did all they could to support the work.
‘Unfortunately, the council’s action could be read as politically-motivated censorship of the imagination. The film is an absurd, warped Folk-tale, that explores the idea of the image of Margaret Thatcher as an after-burn on the collective memory of our culture. It speculates on belief systems, ideas of truth, power and pleasure and how cultural memories are re-made and distorted according to the needs of each era,’ said Thomas.
The film follows two women through a broken, post-apocalyptic landscape of collapsing signs and imploding meanings on a pilgrimage to the Winter Gardens, Blackpool, where they believe Margaret Thatcher is somehow embedded in the building, and will cure their green baby. The Winter Gardens is an iconic site of Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power in 1979 at the Conservative party conference. In this fantastic, primitive-future world, the difference between technology and magic, sense and nonsense has become incomprehensible. Our characters buy a Maggie doll which spouts quotations to guide them when they pull its string. Mythical Red, Green and Blue characters – that could be distorted versions of long-dead political factions -appear to them on the journey, proclaiming their rhetoric, producing spasms of white light when they clash. The film is allegorical, imaginative and is not directly political, but Blackpool is a “key marginal” seat, and some local Conservatives in the council have seemingly become agitated about the idea of the work (without having seen it). It could also be that the issue is being used as a weapon to attack local arts funding for the Grundy Gallery, which is the only major arts resource in the whole region. Art Monthly and the Arts Newspaper have written articles on this story (below).
The agency Modern Culture and Jennet are currently devising a series of touring screenings/seminars/performances called UNSPEAKBLE FREEEDOM that will feature the film, in the run-up to the General Election and generate discussion around ideas that propose an artist’s concept of Politics as an alternative reality/language, with the potential to create meaning at a grass-roots level in new ways.’