Mohini Chandra offers a visual mediation on community, belonging and the history of a place during the global pandemic. Here, we introduce Chandra's practice and what she's working on as part of our project Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other.
Mohini Chandra, Imaginary Edens / Photos of my Father from a series A Photo Collage, 2013-2016
Mohini Chandra's (b.1964, UK) work deals with articulations of identity and globalised spaces, and the role of the photographic in relation to memory and migration. Her research-led practice is fuelled by a sustained interest in photographic histories and the processes of visual culture within colonial, anthropological and ethnographic discourses.
As a child Chandra spent time in Fiji and travelled widely with her family within the Indian-Fijian diaspora, and her deep engagement with ancestral histories is evident in projects such as album pacifica – in which she traced her global Fijian-Indian family album, collecting over 100 photographs in an attempt to ‘reunite’ her dispersed family. Sharing only the reverse of the print, the series – commissioned and first published by Autograph in 2001 – denied viewers visual access to the actual photographs but instead offered inscriptions, stamps and markings: glimpses to piece together interspersed, fragmented migratory histories.
Her ongoing project Paradise Lost, an expansive body of work comprised of both still and moving image, explores significant global sites of collective and personal memory, emphasising the experience of colonialism and its aftermath. In the most recent iteration – from her base in Plymouth and through the prism of the city’s maritime history – Chandra turns her attention to the lost narratives suggested by shipwrecks and the relationship of these stories to the global experience of indenture and slavery.
For this new artist commission, Chandra will respond to the idea of Care | Contagion | Community with a new moving image work Belated wherein language, dance and tradition are woven together – inspired by the silenced bells of her local church since the beginning of nation-wide lockdown. During her daily walks along the River Dart in Devon, Chandra began to look into local histories which led her to nearby Dartington Hall, an estate that once welcomed the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore during the 18th century. By replacing the church bell with the delicate chime of ankle bells audible through intricate footwork as performed in classical Indian dance, the work engages the poetry of Tagore and ideas of sustained creativity within artistic communities.
We'll update this page as the commission progresses, join our mailing list for updates. In the meantime, read an introduction to the Care | Contagion | Community project by Autograph's Senior Curator Renée Mussai.
Mohini Chandra, spread from album pacifica, published by Autograph in 2001 and now out of print.
Mohini Chandra’s works have been exhibited globally including at Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Photo Kathmandu, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne; Queens Museum of Art, New York; and showcased in international events such as the First Johannesburg Biennale (1995); Focus Festival of Photography in Mumbai (2017); the Third Oceanic Performance Biennale in Auckland (2017) and Houston FotoFest Biennial (2018). Her works are held in the Arts Council Collection, UK.
Autograph has commissioned ten artists to create new work responding to the wider context of the Covid-19 crisis. Initiated during the first month of lockdown, Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora have been in close dialogue with a constituency of creative practitioners in our immediate artistic community. For the first phase, we have invited UK-based artists working with photography, film and lens-based media to create a new small-scale, open-ended visual arts project. The second phase will encompass ten new writing commissions, where each writer – paired with one of the artists – will be tasked to produce a short essay contextualising these newly commissioned works.
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Images, from top: 1) Mohini Chandra, Paradise Lost, 2020-2021. Moving image / digital projection. 2) Mohini Chandra, Imaginary Edens / Photos of my Father from a series A Photo Collage, 2013-2016. 3) Mohini Chandra, book spread from album pacifica, 2001. Artist Book published by Autograph, London. All images courtesy of and © Mohini Chandra.