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Mahenderpal Sorya is a visual artist currently living and working in London. His practice spans a broad range of media including moving image, sculpture, painting, printmaking and performance. He has a particular interest in essayistic film making, 'subjective cinema' and autoethnographic methodologies for engaging with archive material, especially practices that are experimental or informed by 'DIY' or 'imperfect' approaches to filmmaking. Through his work he explore themes of personal and collective diasporic memory, trans-generational trauma and the relationship between film spectatorship and trauma. Trans-generational trauma, epigenetics and memory studies are discourses engaged with in order to explore the ways in which 'trauma' could be seen to be 'passed down' through generations as well as the ways in which trauma can be experienced 'inter-generationally'.  

Since being selected for the 2021/22 FLAMIN fellowship (Film London Artists' Moving Image Network) his practice has centred on exploring the relationship between childhood trauma and early film viewing experience, through a psychoanalytic lens. The potential of considering film viewing as both a post traumatic response (for example, as a mode of fantasy or escape) as well as a trauma inducing experience is explored in the contexts and experiences of second and third generation children of South Asian diasporic communities in the UK. At the heart of this research is the overarching psychoanalytic question of the emotional relationship and attachment children form with film, particularly when they are or have been experiencing trauma (both on a personal and/or collective level), and the subsequent impact of this on psychosocial development and transition into adulthood. Autoethnographic and phenomenological methodologies are adopted in the exploration of memories of viewing horror films in childhood and the relationship between such experiences and the ‘real life’ social, cultural and economic challenges to establishing selfhood whilst growing up in environments which can sometimes be felt to be hostile. Out of this exploration, dreaming, and more specifically nightmares, serves as a central space for thinking about ways in which trauma and the experience of film have the potential to meet and interact in vital ways. The function of the nightmare as a 'rehearsal' or 'threat simulation' in order to prepare a dreamer for real life challenges is examined through a range of films and representations of dreams in film.  A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) is a key film reference/ case study; one which enables a reflection on the cultural paradox of the ‘monster’ as a social construct as well as drawing our awareness to the role such films play in intensifying and heightening our attention to the significance of place. The potential of ‘film therapy’ and the revisiting of childhood ‘filmic trauma’ in adulthood is also explored as a possible therapeutic approach; offering new perspectives on the notion of the ‘trigger’ or something in film that can ‘throw you back’ to an early childhood experience as well as the notion of film viewing bearing potential to expose the fact a past trauma hasn’t been processed.

A large part of Mahenderpal's practice also involves coordinating and facilitating socially engaged projects and he has worked on several commissions, research and social engagement projects which have centred on first and second generation South Asian memory and experience in the UK. These include projects funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Arts Council England, Greater London Authority and University of the Arts, London. He is a Lecturer on BA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins (University of the Arts London) and Associate Lecturer: Contextual and Theoretical Studies at London College of Communication (UAL). He holds a BA and MA in Fine Art, and an LLB (Law).

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