These commissions by Kendra Gator (Festival Director) and Ed Halter (Executive Producer) for a video installation at the ‘New York Underground Film Festival’ (NYUFF), as well as a retrospective by Sky Sitney (Curator, Anthology Film Archives) in 2004 were a direct result of Thomas' international profile evidenced by her selection for NYUFF (1997-2003), and the recent selection of her entire output of video works for distribution by Video Data Bank - the leading resource in the USA for videos by and about contemporary international artists. Combined into one event in March 2004, this work occupies a very particular field within video installation, simultaneously deploying both experimental and narrative methodologies. Using a highly unusual combination of representational art forms and filmic/TV genres within one piece of work, as well as pursuing questions around the limits of representation and subjectivity, and how this in itself can be ‘represented', this work seeks to investigate issues of how an audience interprets and makes judgments based on genre status – through the use of ‘professionally' altered amateur paintings within an established ‘museum' gallery space.
‘On the Shape of the Scab’ is a complex multi-media work combining video projection, sound, figurative painting, site-specific sculptural elements and storytelling. Investigating the problems inherent in any attempt to use representational forms to come to a commonly understood interpretation of experience, it brings these problems into focus by asking the viewer to decode a coherent ‘story' from a number of conflicting, but overlapping forms of representation. For example, the use of children's voices explaining the meaning of scab-like shapes on landscape paintings, reminiscent of the Victorian practice of phrenology, are juxtaposed with an elaborate, but incomprehensible ritual or sporting activity that is taking place on the screen, designed to evoke another quality judgement on the paintings the children describe.