| About |


Susan Thomson is a writer, visual artist and filmmaker working across the formal boundaries of visual art, film and literature. Susan is currently directing The Swimming Diaries funded by an Arts Council of Ireland Reel Art film award. This is a docufiction feature length film based on her memoir/artist's book, which was previously exhibited at X Initiative, New York and Tate Modern, London, and was exhibited and sold for many years at Artbook@PS1 MoMA, New York. It will premiere at the Dublin International Film Festival in 2024. She is also continuing to direct a series of films on British postcolonial LGBTQ+ issues, Ghost Empire, funded by an Arts Council of Ireland Visual Arts Project Award. Ghost Empire § Belize (2021, 108 mins) premiered at the IFI Irish Film Institute Documentary Festival in September 2021, and won two IndieFEST awards that year, an Award of Recognition (Documentary Feature) and an Award of Merit (Liberation/Social Justice/Protest). The film is also Official Selection at Catalyst International Film Festival, Limerick, CAMRA Screening Scholarship Festival, University of Pennsylvania, Irish Film London Festival's Irish Film from Home, Flickfair, L.A., Liberation Docfest, Bangladesh and NewFilmakersNY, New York in 2023. Ghost Empire § Belize won an Impact DOCS Award of Recognition for Documentary Feature/LGBTQ+ Film for Social change in July 2023. Susan was a British Council Plural artist in residence with Instituto Mesa in Brazil in 2022, and the film she wrote and directed on this residency Tybyra and the Harlequin (2022), which explores rights of nature alongside LGBTQ+ rights, premiered at the Cinemateca, Museum of Modern Art MAM, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in December 2022. 

A new film in the series Ghost Empire § Maurice-Chagos (2023) is currently in production. Ghost Empire § Singapore screened at Anthology Film Archives, New York City as an Altfest Special Program in 2016. Ghost Empire § Cyprus (2014, 35 mins) / Ghost Empire § Singapore (2014, 59 minutes) were nominated together as a feature for best international film at MICGĂ©nero film festival, Mexico City in 2015 and selected to tour round seven Mexican states. Ghost Empire § Singapore won the award for best feature film at Direct Short and Documentary Film Festival, July 2015. It was also official selection at Unspoken Human Rights Film Festival, Utica, New York. The Ghost Empire series (including visiting lectures and panel discussions) has  screened internationally at universities including Yale NUS, Edinburgh University, El Colef, Mexico, SOAS, LSE KCL, London, Nottingham University, and University of Pennsylvania, as well as at political fora including the Scottish Government,  and INIVA, London. Ghost Empire § Cyprus was Official Selection at Mumbai Queer International Film Festival in 2016, Official selection at World of Film International festival, at CCA, Glasgow, at Culture Unplugged Film Festival, and has been screened at Limerick City Gallery, Ireland and EMAA, Nicosia. Represented by William Morris Endeavor WME in London between 2017-2019, she has recently completed a novel about Roger Casement. 

 The Cytokine Storms (2020) a new essay film, funded by a Covid grant from the Arts Council of Ireland, explores the colonial echoes of the UK government's response to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is available to watch on Circa art magazine's website, and has screened at Sussex University, Centre for World Environmental History in 2021. They discussed the project on the Quarantini podcast. 

She holds a Masters in European Literature and Film from Magdalen College, Oxford University, an MA in Modern Languages from Trinity Hall, Cambridge and a Masters in Fine Art from IADT, Dublin. They have received numerous bursaries and project awards from the Arts Council and has written for many publications including Circa, IMMA magazine, the Times, Women’s News, GCN and JSTOR.

Susan was part of the ‘Troubling Ireland’ Think Tank, led by Danish curators Kuratorisk Aktion in association with Fire Station Artists’ Studios, Dublin. Additionally, they were Director of Photography of Gympressive which was longlisted for a British Comedy Award in 2014. The film Fire Practice Theatre (2009) had solo shows at thisisnotashop, Dublin and Broadcast gallery, Dublin, was screened as an official selection at HDFest, Portland, Oregon, at Union Docs, New York, and screened at ‘No Soul for Sale’ in the Tate Modern, London.

Artist Statement

My practice looks at issues around global LGBTQ+ human rights, postcolonialism and the Law. I am researching the intersection between British colonialism and LGBTQ+ rights, looking at British colonial laws from the 19th and early 20th century. Currently around half of the countries which criminalize homosexuality use British colonial laws or revised versions of these laws, meaning that British colonial laws are responsible for criminalizing LGBTQ+ people in 34 countries. The films follow constitutional challenges to these laws happening in four different continents. These films are the only films made about these legal challenges in Northern Cyprus, Singapore, and Mauritius, and the only feature length film about the challenge in Belize.

The films function as both documentary films and also use the language of conceptual art practice. Time, including unconscious time, anachronistic or posttraumatic time and the repetitive narratives these create is a theme in my work. The unusual time zones created by the existence of old laws within a contemporary setting give the surreal effect of the presence of history.  Ghost Empire is series of films, on Cyprus, Singapore, Belize and Mauritius/Chagos islands, which also explore other colonial legacies such as slavery, population displacement, partition, and colonial laws still in existence such as sedition and detention without trial.

CV:    Curriculum Vitae
Email: susanmackaythomson[at]gmail.com
Twitter: @scmthomson
Facebook:  Ghost Empire Films
Instagram: susanthomson_ghostempire