Images from the archive

On Saturday 14th July the Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands transformed the exhibition space for When the moon fell out of orbit for the final time.

Images that had emerged throughout the period of the exhibition were sent out as monoprint drawings across the gallery from the bell tower, whilst sounds from the Institute’s Archive were played into the space.

You can listen to an edited version of the sounds from the archive here: Unknown Lands Images from the archive (headphones recommended)

The images being spoken are images experienced by participants on their journeys to unknown lands.

All journeys took place beneath the bell tower during When the moon fell out of orbit.

A visit from Shelley Sacks and Wolfgang Zumdick

The Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands was yesterday visited by Shelley Sacks and Wolfgang Zumdick from the Social Sculpture Research Unit, Oxford.

See the exhibition text written by Shelley Sacks for When the moon fell out of orbit here.

‘Unknown Lands’

Unknown Lands derives from a series of journeys taken across several weeks in one location.

This performance takes place every Wednesday at 10.30am at Mission Gallery before it is open to the public, within the constructed world of the Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands.

The three remaining dates are 27 June / 4 July / 11 July for which places need to be reserved with Mission Gallery.


image by Emma Rylance.

Live Action by the Institute on the opening night of ‘When the moon fell out of orbit’













Live action by the Institute for the opening of When the moon fell out of orbit at Mission Gallery, Swansea on June 1st. This action, which responded to the searching for the lost bell of St Nicholas Mission to Seamen Church (now Mission Gallery), took place in the constructed bell tower whilst this sound piece was played in the gallery searching for the lost bell of st nicholas (which you are also currently able to listen to on headphones underneath the bell tower).



images by Inger Richenberg


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

moon and ladder, monoprint

idea for a bell tower, monoprint

idea for a boat, monoprint

moon phases

press release: When the moon fell out of orbit






















download pdf here: Press Release – When the moon