In her video work, Miranda Pennell (London) reworks photographs from colonial archives and personal albums to create shifting experiences of time and question how we relate to the past. She probes some of the ways that merging still images within the moving image can help us to better engage with troubled histories.

In the first session, Miranda Pennell is taking her film The Host (2015) as a basis to reflect upon the interaction of personal and collective histories, as well as on the role of the artist in the history they make. In the second session, Miranda Pennell is speaking about the challenge of deconstructing images and languages of violence in her film Strange Object (2020). In addition, she is discussing the use of science fiction as an aid for imagining the past, as well as the use of language, voice, and image/word relationships, so as to understand what is not said or shown.

The Host

HD, 60 min, 2015


A filmmaker turns forensic detective as she pieces together hundreds of photographs in search of what she believes to be a buried history, only to find herself inside the story she is researching. The Host investigates the activities of British Petroleum (BP) in Iran; a tale of power, imperial hubris and catastrophe. While the tectonic plates of geopolitical conspiracy shift in the background, the film asks us to look, and look again, at images produced by the oil company and personal photos taken by its British staff in Iran – including the filmmaker's parents – not for what they show, but for what they betray. The Host is about the stories we tell about ourselves and others, the facts and fictions we live by – and their consequences.


Devised, written and spoken by Miranda Pennell

Editor: John Smith

Sound: Miranda Pennell, John Smith

Images with permission from: The BP archive; Pennell family photographs from Iran, 1961-67

Music recordings:

Overture to Collin's Coriolan Op. 62, Coriolan Overture, conducted by Bruno Walter and the Berliner Philharmonika, L V Beethoven

Beneath the Shanty Town Moon, Denny Dennis & Jack Hilton & his Orchestra, Stardust Records

O Lord Rebuke Me Not, sung by Kathleen Ferrier, 1953, Edmund Rubbra ©Universal Music

Mara Beboos [trans. Kiss me one last time], sung by Hassan Golnaraghi, written by Majid Vafadar, Heidar Reghabi

Strange Object

HD, 60 min, 2020


The Z Unit's operations in a world far from our own was an experiment of sorts, a test. And this place, inhabited by beings different from ourselves, served as a laboratory. A successful outcome would secure the Z Unit's future, enabling its enterprise to expand and its methods to be applied to other worlds.

An investigation into imperial image-making, and destruction.

The first part of an ongoing project, Strange Object takes aerial photographs of an undisclosed colonized territory as the starting point for a meditation on images, erasure, and the writing of history.


Script: Miranda Pennell

Editing & sound: Miranda Pennell

Images with permission of the National Archives, London


Miranda Pennell is an artist and filmmaker based in London. Her recent work uses photographic archives as the starting point for a reflection on colonial legacies.

Pennell originally trained in contemporary dance, and her award-winning videos exploring choreography in everyday life have been widely screened and broadcast internationally. She was awarded her MA Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths College, University of London, in 2010, and went on to undertake practice-led PhD research on approaches to activating images from imperial archives, completed in 2016.

Selected screenings and exhibitions most recently include the Berlinale and London International Film Festival, Tanzbilder at the Neues Museum Nuremberg (2019), one-person program at the Stuttgart FilmWinter Festival for Expanded Media (2019), Chenai Photo Biennale (2019), Miranda Pennell: choreographies and archives, UnderDox at the Film Museum Munich (2017), Choreocinema: Siobhan Davies & Miranda Pennell, Barbican, London (2017), Co-op Dialogues 1976-2016: Lis Rhodes & Miranda Pennell, Tate Britain (2016), All Systems Go, Cooper Gallery, Dundee (2016) and Europe – The Future of History at Kunsthaus Zurich (2015).