Archive for the Category When the moon fell out of orbit /Searching for the lost bell of St Nicholas


the building of a bell tower













*** CLICK HERE to view the video the building of a bell tower ***

Building a structure as a place to which the bell can return.

Fern Thomas’ Moon: or Bird in the Mind, Bird in the World by Shelley Sacks










Fern Thomas’ Moon: or Bird in the Mind, Bird in the World

On my windowsill is a postcard of Thomas with a small dead bird resting on her forehead. The bird is on that sensitive area, just where the third eye is said to be. On the back of the image the words: …new organs of perception.

I carry several other compelling images of Thomas’s in me, poetic instruments that take me into new territory:  Thomas standing in a river, acting as intermediary, giving voice to the river for those who neither hear or speak its language nor understand its power and its pain; or kneeling amidst us, listening intently to a bell. As we listen with her to the bell’s circling sounds, she opens one hand to reveal a shard of porcelain unearthed in her childhood garden. With this fragment she shows us how ‘to open a mountain’.

With such phrases, spoken in her actions with penetrating quietness and written into her powerful, scratched drawings, Thomas confirms the connection between inner and outer fields, enabling us to understand the undervalued relationship between imagination and transformation, the psyche and the social.  On this “poetic continent”, as the philosopher Wolfgang Zumdick has described the region in which the social-transformative is inseparably related to the imaginative field, Fern Thomas is no apprentice.

‘When the Moon Fell Out of Orbit’ – the title of this compelling new body of work – refers to what Thomas describes as a ‘post apocalyptic’ world in which ‘there is a need for new images… instead of sinking into fear’. Magnified by her stillness she is the archetypal psychopomp, a highly skilled and perceptive artist-guide helping us open the doors of the everyday, the doors of perception; taking us across thresholds to reveal what can be known in this difficult yet astonishing world. The works in this exhibition – which include reassembling in our midst a wooden structure for supporting a long lost bell; the lion she encounters as she lets the image of a plateau unfold; or the ‘boat’ she makes to enable her to cross the dry floor of the gallery in the period between its formal exhibitions– are compelling instances of the way she connects the world of social historical substance and the domain of imaginal thought. They are also examples of her exceptional ability to take us into ‘imagined futures and unknown lands’.  This, the name of the new research institute she has recently founded, straddles the world of psyche and transformative action, and Thomas is the ferry person.

‘What do we do now that the moon has fallen out of orbit?’ – Thomas’s own question arising from a profound encounter with the world – is not simply a poetic way of acknowledging the enormous issues facing us whilst avoiding practical challenges. For as Thomas implies in emphasizing the need to develop new images, this kind of imaginal work, the work of the artist that is potential in all of us, is essential. We can no longer divide the imaginative tasks of the inner field from the transformative, solution seeking work ‘out there’.  It is therefore understandable that Thomas locates her enquiries in the field of social sculpture and connective aesthetic practices. This is work that is social and transformative not only because it is often participatory and future orientated, but most of all because it foregrounds the need to find new pictures, images and stories, as well as the new capacities and organs of perception needed to work like artists in the world.

Fern’s Thomas heightened engagement and embracing of the world is not without affinity to other Welsh poet-guides and adept enquirers. If we let her works take us into the enlivened poetic dimension we will begin to experience new connections to the world and to uncover and reconfigure with Thomas what seemed ‘buried, hidden or lost’.  Climb the tower in your mind and listen out for the lost bell.  With great skill and care, Thomas takes us there.  Come, journey with her into ‘imagined futures and unknown lands’.  You will not be disappointed.

Shelley Sacks, Professor of Social Sculpture at Oxford Brookes & Director of the Social Sculpture Research Unit, Oxford

When the moon fell out of orbit at Mission Gallery









For When the moon fell out of orbit, which takes its title from a dream, the Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands carries out a series of explorations into images found in our dreams and inner landscapes.

Responding to the building’s history as a Mission to Seafarers Church, the Institute has focused its research on finding the lost bell of St Nicholas. It is thought that the bell tower was removed after the war due to being rendered unstable by a nearby bomb. What happened to the bell, nobody knows. Now a wooden bell tower has been created by the Institute in the gallery, reforming a structure which stood beneath the original bell tower, as a place to which the bell can return. The bell tower will act as a space for actions, correspondence and ‘journeys’ throughout the duration of the exhibition.

Transformation is central to the Institute’s explorations in the exhibition, including a tale of a post-apocalyptic fragment dug up from Thomas’ parent’s garden that can open a mountain, a metal box of divinatory tools opened only at certain times throughout the exhibition, and the reference to the alchemical symbol, the ladder. Suspended above the archway the blackboard disc will be a changing space for drawings and texts as the exhibition progresses.


on the wall at Mission Gallery, Swansea for When the moon fell out of orbit:  June 2nd – July 15th



moon and ladder, monoprint

idea for a bell tower, monoprint

idea for a boat, monoprint

Updated Events for When the moon

When the moon fell out of orbit | Mission Gallery, Gloucester Place. Swansea | 2 June – 15 July



Unknown Lands – Scheduled Performance:

Wednesdays at 10.30am throughout the exhibition period

Limited spaces, booking required. Please reserve your place with the gallery 01792 652016


Unknown Lands – Participatory Process

During the exhibition there will be an invitation for individuals to go on a journey to an unknown land. Participants will be later invited to share their journey with the archive of the Institute. All journeys will take place beneath the bell tower


Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands – 2pm Saturday 7 July

Discussion with Karen MacKinnon, Peter Finnemore, Owen Griffiths & Fern Thomas


Closing Event – 3pm Saturday 14th July

An opportunity to see the continued research and actions developed by the Institute throughout the duration of the exhibition



A framed image of St Nicholas Church with its bell tower from 1921 has been placed by the Institute amongst the historical images of this area in the Queens Hotel Pub, located on the corner of Gloucester Place, where the Gallery is located.

a boat to navigate turbulent seas (dream)

an image from a dream (january 2012)





















a ship that is discovered sunken that was modelled on an upside down castle from 1066

recorded dream about the lost bell











On the 6th May 2012 a Mr N W Hughes from Swansea had a dream about the lost bell of St Nicholas:

“…there was a bell in my dream last night, it had St Thomas written on it and had a big crack and chunk taken out of it…in my dream the bell was in the car park near the swing bridge behind Mission Gallery’

If you have a dream about the lost bell of St Nicholas, please contact us immediately: