Care | Contagion | Community – Self & Other
New work by ten visual artists responding to the wider contexts of Covid-19.
Continuing our season of reflection on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we present Care | Contagion | Community – Self & Other an Autograph touring exhibition and commissioning project. Initiated during the first month of lockdown in March 2020, when Autograph’s curatorial team Mark Sealy, Renée Mussai and Bindi Vora spent a year working closely with ten artists to support the creation of new work.
As we face the emotional, physical, economic, psychosocial, and other consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and consider new ways of being in this time of global crisis, the notion of community and care is more pertinent than ever. Autograph commissioned ten visual artists – Mohini Chandra, Poulomi Desai, Joy Gregory, Othello De’Souza-Hartley, Sonal Kantaria, Ope Lori, Dexter McLean, Karl Ohiri, Silvia Rosi and Aida Silvestri – to create new work responding to the wider contexts of Covid-19, looking closely at their immediate environments. Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other is a wide-ranging reflection on the global impact of Covid-19.
Autograph states “Located as the symbolic bond between care and community, the word ‘contagion’ – its original meaning being ‘together’, and ‘to touch’ – evokes images of close contact, as well as ideas of potential exposure and transmission. What are the new implications of touch, of close relationships between the self and the other, or the lack thereof in a time of isolation and separation? How might we be better together as a community in the future? How to protect those who risk their lives in their commitment to care for others, working on multiple frontlines? What kinds of support structures might we need, to help us navigate such unprecedented times, both collectively and individually?”
The diverse range of works created for Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other include a conceptual equation for humanity; intricate visual diaries; photo-action-paintings highlighting the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on communities of colour and essential workers; performative self-portraits; and experimental imagery inoculated with mould and bacterial growth, metaphors for the economics of care and control.
The interdisciplinary artworks the artists produced represent thoughtful reflections on changing conditions of existence: generous invitations for us to think about what it means to be human and to care for one another. Using primarily photography and video, the artists reflect both carefully and critically – and often very personally – on the impact of the pandemic, exploring ideas of loss, family, home, belonging and diaspora while considering different lived experiences, and the inevitability of change.
Autograph also invited ten writers – each paired with one of the artists – to produce a short essay contextualising the artworks; including Impressions’ director, Anne McNeill, who wrote about Joy Gregory’s commission Madam Photo.
Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other is an Autograph touring exhibition curated by Renée Mussai, Mark Sealy and Bindi Vora.
Introducing Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other
Produced by Autograph.
Mohini Chandra explores articulations of identity in globalised spaces, and the role of photography in relation to memory and migration. Her research-led visual arts practice is fuelled by a sustained interest in photographic histories and the processes of visual culture within colonial, anthropological and ethnographic discourses. In her commission 'Belated', Chandra offers a visual mediation on ideas of place and belonging during the global pandemic.
Poulomi Desai is a multimedia artist whose activist community-based practice often utilises performance, language, photography, and sound to create art advocacy projects. For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Desai created a series of images inoculated with bacteria, considering how we might attempt to control the uncontrollable. View her commission 'Our cultures are the portals - the gateways between one world and the next' at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/poulomi-desai
Joy Gregory is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice explores the wider cultural politics of identity, race and gender. Her practice employs photographic media – both analogue and digital – from still to moving image and camera-less photography alongside installation, objects and sound. Gregory created Madam Photo for the commission, a diary-like series of photographic and textual fragments drawn from her daily walks and encounters during lockdown.
Othello De’Souza-Hartley is a visual artist whose artistic vocabulary encompasses photography, film, performance, sound, drawing and painting. Working across multiple interdisciplinary platforms, his practice is concerned with ideas around the human body as a site of embodiment, often engaging with self-portraiture, masculinity and vulnerability as visually performed ideas. For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, De’Souza-Hartley reflected on the notion of stillness, loss and how to navigate grief in his series 'Blind, but I can See', read more at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/othello-de-souza-hartley
Sonal Kantaria is a British Indian visual artist whose practice explores themes of movement, settlement, representation, and cultural identity. Her interdisciplinary research-led practice is concerned with history, trauma, and memory, investigating different forms of resistance through photography, video and text. Kantaria's commission Ghar considers what 'home' might mean during a global pandemic and how it relates to her cultural heritage.
Ope Lori works across visual arts, activism, and academia, using lens-based media to investigate politics of difference, often in relation to cultural and sexual identity. Her research-led practice, which includes writing as well as image-making, invites viewers to question power dynamics in both private and public spheres, routinely challenging societal stereotypes, and myths. Ope Lori created two film works for the project, a performative exploration centred on a shared lineage of philosophy between father and daughter. View The Lines Between Us / I, Becoming You at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/ope-lori
Dexter McLean is a photographer whose socially engaged practice is concerned with the representation of black and disabled communities. Drawing from his own lived experiences, he creates photographic portraits that emphasise the challenges and societal myths disabled people face in contemporary society. McLean reflected on the impact Covid-19 has had on the community that surrounds him in his day-to-day life in his commission. View his series Untitled at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/dexter-mclean
Karl Ohiri is a British Nigerian artist whose multifaceted practice focuses on the human condition and explores different social functions of art. Notions of self/other are central to his work, which routinely incorporates the use of photography, video, text and everyday. For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Ohiri developed a conceptual artwork that proposes a sociological equation for humanity. View his commission Equation for Humanity at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/karl-ohiri
Silvia Rosi works with photography, text and moving image to explore ideas of memory, migration and diaspora. Inspired by West African studio photography, Rosi’s practice explores personal history through self-portraiture, drawing on her Togolese heritage and family traditions, especially matrilineality, and women’s labour. In her commission, Rosi reflected on the different structures we build to protect ourselves and how the absence of touch can affect our social behaviour. View 'Neither Could Exist Alone' at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/silvia-rosi
Aida Silvestri creates mixed-media artworks that challenge the status quo of stigma, prejudice and social injustice in relation to issues of race, class, identity and health, often combining text, image and experimental techniques to manipulate the photographic surface. For Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other, Silvestri created an experimental body of work that explores the impact of Covid-19 on frontline workers of colour, linking the present with the past. View her commission 'Contagion: Colour on the Front Line' at https://autograph.org.uk/commissions/aida-silvestri
Our visitors say....
“Very moving – great exhibition showcasing some amazing visual artists.”
“Thought provoking – especially the equation I+U=US – brilliant, really. Thank you.”
“Aida Silvestri’s work is so impactful, rings true for lockdown and the workers that supported so many.”
“My five year old loved watching the feet and listening to the heels / bells in Mohini Chandra’s film.”
Book: Care | Contagion | Community — Self & Other
A new anthology published by Autograph to accompany the exhibition. Featuring all ten artist commissions and twenty-two texts including essays by the invited writers and interviews with each artist discussing their practice. With a new introductory essay 'Reflections on Creative / Pandemic Time' by Autograph’s senior curator Renée Mussai, and Foreword by Autograph's director Mark Sealy.
Available in person from the gallery bookshop for the special exhibition price of £20 (RRP £30).