Poulomi Basu's deeply emotive and powerful series Fireflies is touring to East Gallery at Norwich University of the Arts this winter. In Fireflies, Basu foregrounds the relationship between mother and daughter. Using photography, video and sound, she reflects on experiences of trauma – particularly patriarchal violence – navigating the claustrophobia of home, dreams of freedom, defiance, and transcendence.
Basu is known for her work advocating for the rights of marginalised women using the power of photography as a tool for storytelling, amplifying women’s voices from the majority world. She says of the genesis of this new series: "Fireflies is a combination of ideas and of accumulated experiences which made me feel compelled to turn the camera upon myself; to tell my story of resistance and stand in solidarity with the women who have opened their lives to me.”
The artist and her mother feature prominently throughout the exhibition, oscillating between lone figures isolated in the vast expanse of sublime terrain to delicately composed portraits in which their bodies embrace. This intimate dialogue visualises how matrilineal history has been shaped through the bloodlines of collective experience, taking the viewer through a tender journey of generational healing.
Inspired by magical realism, eco-feminism and dystopian science fiction, Basu carefully orchestrates her images against the celestial beauty of the natural world. She weaves together the real and the fantastical to create a charged psychological landscape: capturing moments of love and closeness, the intensity of traumatic memory, and experiences that cannot be put into words.
Large photographs of luminous glaciers are suspended in an arc in the centre of the gallery, envisioned by the artist as portals to a parallel world, a silhouette discernible within the densely layered ice. An enigmatic soundscape resonates throughout the space, mimicking the otherworldly and disorienting landscape that appears in the newest film work as part of Fireflies, created in collaboration with filmmaker CJ Clarke.
Basu reflects, “there is so much pain, anxiety and fear behind most women I have met in life including, myself. Yet we are strong and magical. I want to celebrate both those dualities” – reminding us of the agency our bodies hold.
Please note some artworks depict nudity and the exhibition deals with sensitive issues including trauma
Poulomi Basu (b. 1983, India) has become widely known for her influential photographic projects Blood Speaks, Centralia, and To Conquer Her Land, to name a few. Her first photobook Centralia was published by Dewi Lewis in 2020. The book and exhibition won the 2020 Rencontres d'Arles Discovery Award Jury Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2021 Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.
Basu is a Sundance Fellow, National Geographic Explorer, and Magnum Foundation Social Justice Fellow. Her works are part of public collections, including Autograph, London (UK); Martin Parr Foundation (UK); Museum of Modern Art (Special Collections) (USA); Rencontres d’Arles (FR); Victoria and Albert (UK), amongst others.
You can follow Basu on Instagram, and see more of the artist's work on her website.
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