Interview with Thomas Yeomans

December 2017

A series of interviews with SPACE Art + Technology artists in residence

What were you doing in the year leading up to the residency?
I’d been working entirely in moving image for a few years and felt a desire to go ‘analogue’ so I made a series of 36 small square paintings. Half of them were painted in different hues of ‘black’ mixed using primary colours. The other half were painted in pale, pastel hues using the same black mixes but tinted with white.

On the ‘black’ canvases I painted signs, symbols, sigils and logos associated with or co-opted by authoritarian ideologies, corrupt institutions, and fascist political parties. On the ‘white’ canvases I painted equivalent symbols associated with progressive ideologies, radical activism, and manifold minoritarian resistance.

With all of the paintings sharing the same 3 basic pigments I was charting the fluidity of a spectrum of different thinking, faiths or sets of beliefs rather than casting a false binary of right and wrong, left and right, evil and virtuous.

It was around this time that the prominence of the Alt-right was becoming visible over the parapet of liberal echo chambers online. This vicious group of vile racists were propagating their views and influence using strategies of transgression, taboo breaking, and leaderless activism- traditionally the modus operandi of the Left. Inversely, the Left were accused of being tyrannical, policing language, and censoring free speech - hallmarks of the authoritarian Right.

I wanted my work at the time to reflect this disorientating culture war that is being waged on and offline across a backdrop of fake news, alternative facts and the new post-truth era.

What are you working on at the moment?
Moving on from the paintings, I have scanned these initial works and mapped the digital images as textures to CGI planes and terrains so that they could be animated and traversed. This has formed the basis of a video work I am currently making.

The video explores ominous text elements taken from advertisements, religious books, election campaigns and song lyrics that appear as didactic assertions compelling the viewer to feel or behave a certain way. Some slogans are inherently fascistic, whilst others appear leftist.

Devoid of context, I am hoping the viewer is left unsure of how the attempt to be conditioned is operating. I guess it’s a pretty dystopian reflection of how the world feels to me right now. It is my intention to bring a remedial or optimistic tone to the moments after the breaking point, which is what I am working on at the moment.

Alongside the video I have been rendering fictitious CGI flags for imaginary places or ideologies such as The United Federation of Planets from Star Trek, A Royal America and Fully Automated Luxury Gay Space Communism. The flags fly high up against different skies - dawn, dusk, clear or stormy. These will be fabricated as light boxes adding a commercial language to these propagandist aesthetics.

The opportunity to put on a workshop as part of the residency has led to me collaborate with live artist Joseph Morgan Schofield and curate an evening of incredible performances by 7 artists.

I was looking at the historic relationship between Fascism and Occultism and seeing parallels with how the online Alt-right exploits occultist thinking in its behaviour. For example the satirical worshipping of ancient deity ‘Kek’ and the practice of ‘meme magic’ where the viral propagation of trolling memes forces real world change - such as attacking Hillary Clinton and helping Trump take power.

Joseph’s research into magick, ritual and shamanism highlighted a huge appetite, particularly amongst queer live artists, to reclaim these occultist strategies and use them in the present to imagine positive future realities. We decided to curate an evening of intimate queer ritual, unmediated by screens and safe from trolls. 

How did you find the residency?
It’s been really amazing. First and foremost, to just get some space to read, think and talk to other artists has been invaluable. The other residents have been so friendly and generous with their knowledge and research and the support from SPACE has been fantastic. It has afforded me the chance to push my work in a different direction and immerse myself in a new medium (3D animation). Lastly, having the time to put an emphasis on processes over outcomes has allowed me the privilege of screwing things up, making mistakes and starting all over again.

What’s coming next?
I’ll be showing the new video and light box works in a group show in Berlin curated by Àngels Díaz Miralda Tena that opens January 28th at Horse and Pony Fine Arts. Also in January, I’ve been invited to present my research outcomes to the Fine Art department at Huddersfield University.