Photography subject leader Dr Mohini Chandra releases commissioned film ‘Belated’
Commissioned by Autograph, BA (Hons) Photography Subject Leader Dr Mohini Chandra has released her latest film, ‘Belated’. In response to the Care | Contagion | Community - Self & Other, Mohini offers a visual mediation on ideas of place and belonging during the global pandemic.
Dealing with articulations of identity and globalised spaces, Mohini’s use of the photographic is present 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.
The project Care | Contagion | Community - Self & Other was initiated during the first month of the UK’s first national lockdown in 2020, commissioning ten UK-based artists to create new work in response to the wider context of the Covid-19 crisis. Reflecting on Autograph’s long-standing work advocating for photography and film to address visual politics of rights, race and representation, the project culminates in a group exhibition presented in two themed chapters at the organisation’s gallery in Shoreditch, London between late summer 2021 and spring 2022.
In 'Belated', language, dance and cultural traditions are woven together in a poetic short film - inspired by the silenced bells of Mohini’s local church in the historic rural market town of Totnes, in Devon.
During her daily walks along the River Dart, Mohini experienced an intensified appreciation of nature and 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 early 20th century. Replacing the church bells - fallen silent under lockdown - with the recorded chime of ankle bells performed remotely by a classical Indian dancer, Mohini emphasises the connection between her immediate surroundings and her wider cultural heritage.
Mohini worked remotely (and socially distanced) with an international team of collaborators to explore how the sound of bells and classical Indian dance could poetically connect episodes of Totnes’ history across constellations of time and geography.
To contextualise Mohini’s commission, Autograph invited curator Sushma Jansari to write a short essay reflecting on the poetics of 'Belated' and how this time of change may impact on our past, present and future. This text is also published alongside an in-depth conversation between Mohini and Autograph’s curatorial project manager Bindi Vora.
Mohini said of the project, “The period of lockdown during the global Covid-19 pandemic was so strange for a small bustling community like Totnes. What struck me the most at first, was the way that sound changed. Everything was quiet, the streets were empty… and the church bells fell silent. While contemplating the silent bells, the thought of Indian ankle bells occurred to me as a natural yet unnatural replacement. I was drawn to Tagore’s work and that poem in particular because it covered some key themes, such as life, death, nature and sensuality, while constantly referring to a much-loved river. The meditation on the cycle of life seemed perfect for the troubled times in which we are living, as well as my personal experiences: a very slowed down and considered application of nature and time, even though fear and uncertainty were in the air, both locally and globally. Tiny local stories can sometimes illuminate bigger, global concerns.”
A still from Mohini's short film, 'Belated'
This project isn’t the first lockdown project Mohini has contributed to. In June and July 2020, Mohini took part in the Artist’s Books Cooperative DAYS project, which invited 29 international artists to produce an online book, during the period of lockdown, reflecting on this strange time in history. She is also among 50 names added to Hundred Heroines, an international list celebrating contemporary women photographers by the UK’s Royal Photographic Society. Hundred Heroines includes some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Annie Liebowitz and Cindy Sherman, and comprises photographers from all over the world, from India to Namibia, Mexico and Iran.
Alongside her own personal practice, Mohini is part of Plymouth College of Art’s impressive academic team, as Subject Leader on BA (Hons) Photography and Photography MA Subject Tutor. With a range of internationally recognised experience in her photography practice, exhibiting at Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Queens Museum of Art, New York and Houston FotoFest Biennial (2018) to name a few, her expertise can help you build your own distinctive and innovative creative practice.