Paradise Lost explores the rich history of shipwrecks in the historic naval port city of Plymouth and their relation to empire, slavery and indenture.
Mohini Chandra’s new body of work reflects the complex movement of people and objects within the colonised world, whilst reflecting on her own ancestors' journeys abroad indenture ships. While shipping was the powerhouse of empire, in the ruins and debris of a shipwreck, any notions of the ‘paradisiacal’ are challenged by the harsh realities of maritime expansion.
Central to the exhibition is a new film work featuring a specially commissioned song Ei Dubonto Shomoy, translated from Bengali as ‘In these drowning times’, written and performed by Kolkata based archivist, Moushumi Bhowmik as a lament for ‘lost souls’. The song refers to the lives lost on ships (both sailors and colonised or enslaved peoples), whilst alluding to contemporary tragedies of globalisation, borders and migration. Imagery of Moushumi singing this potent lament is coupled with shots of the site of a wrecked slave ship still in place in Plymouth Sound.
Also included in the exhibition are a series of photographs taken from Chandra’s recent research, undertaken in collaboration with the Archaeological team SHIPS Project, which has seen her unearth and photograph artefacts from shipwrecks in Plymouth. These vessels have yielded slave manillas, domestic, personal and nautical items as well as clothing and ornaments, found by local divers and archaeology teams.
Mohini Chandra’s work deals with articulations of identity and globalized spaces, and the role of the photographic in relation to memory and migration. As a child, Chandra spent time in Fiji and travelled widely with her family within the Indian-Fijian diaspora. She has an interest in photographic histories and the processes of visual culture within colonial, anthropological and ethnographic discourses and the imagery of contemporary globalized cultures.
Since graduating from the Royal College of Art, Chandra has exhibited widely, including in: Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific, Asia Society Museum, New York; Out of India, Queens Museum of Art, New York; 000ZeroZeroZero, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London; Artist and the Archive, Shoreditch Biennale; the First Johannesburg Biennale and the Photography Triennial - Dislocations, Rovaniemi Museum in Finland.
She has had solo shows at venues such as the Southeast Museum of Photography, Florida and the Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool. Most recently, she has shown in Photo Kathmandu (2015), CCP Declares at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne (2016), Now! Now! In more than one place, Chelsea College of Arts-University of the Arts London (2016), the Focus Festival of Photography in Mumbai, (2017), the Third Oceanic Performance Biennale in Auckland (2017), the Houston FotoFest Biennial (2018), Unquiet Moments, Courtauld Institute, (2020) and Bittersweet, Casula Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, (2020).
Her work is held in international collections in the UK and USA including the UK’s Arts Council Collection and included in major survey publications such as Phaidon’s Art and Photography (ed. David Campany). Mohini Chandra has recently been awarded an Arts Council National Lottery Grant for Paradise Lost and has previously been supported by the Australia Council, Asialink and Arts NSW as well as the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and the British Council. Her work has also been supported by Autograph who recently awarded her a new commission for the (Arts Council funded) ‘Care: Contagion: Community-Self and Other’ project.
Paradise Lost has been supported using public funding by Arts Council England and will tour to Chennai Photo Biennale in December 2021.
With thanks to Spike Island Exhibition Services, the Shipwreck Treasure Museum and the local sports diving community of Plymouth for their generous support. The SHIPS Project is a volunteer non-profi t organization that undertakes research and exploration of maritime historical sites and events, both on land and underwater. The SHIPS Project is based in Plymouth, England, and the main focus of their work is centred on that city, and its maritime landscape.
Paradise Lost Catalogue, 2021
Limited edition, 100 page, full colour, illustrated catalogue with an essay by Alice Correia and a conversation between Mohini Chandra and Mallory Haas.
£20 plus p&p
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