Miranda Pennell originally trained in contemporary dance and later studied visual anthropology at Goldsmiths, London. Her current practice reworks colonial photographic archives as a material for film. Prior to this she produced a body of work exploring aspects of collective performance through film and video, which has been widely shown internationally in independent cinema programs, gallery and broadcast. Her films and videos have received awards at international film festivals, and funding from Arts Council England, Film London’s Artists Film and Video Awards, BBC and the Channel 4 British Documentary Foundation. She is currently in receipt of a three year AHRC scholarship at the University of Westminster.
Trees, insects and birds look-on, as the countryside is invaded by a lost regiment of soldiers engaged in a repetitive display.
The ritual of military drill is by turns absurd and sinister. The soldiers of the Light Division perform a choreography that has been perfected and aestheticized in order to serve a function: to be effective. That is, the dual function of transforming many bodies into a single body, and of mesmerizing onlookers with their ‘stunning’ unity.
The memoirs of a medical missionary on the Afghan borderlands provides the starting point for a film constructed from still photographs of colonial life on the North West frontier of British India at the turn of the 20th century. The film plays sound against image in a search for clues as to the stories behind images and finds striking continuities in Western portrayals of a distant place and people. In defiance of post-humanist tendencies Pennell searches for evidence of the other and re-structures the act of looking under her own terms.