Skip to main content

Dark Circles (2022)

Developed during her FACT artist residency, Tessa Norton presents a new multimedia installation exploring the ambiguity of Anglo-Indian identity; which, though a product of Empire, was marginalised within it. Tessa traces its contrasts and contradictions through the glamorous performances and fluid, ambiguous ethnicity of three Anglo-Indian actresses spanning the 'Golden Age' of Indian musical cinema and classic Hollywood.

Dark Circles explores the confusion and alienation inherent in the Anglo-Indian experience by drawing on the work of these female performers (Cuckoo Moray, Helen, and Merle Oberon) and their carefree movements. The work takes inspiration from music, song, and a culture of dances and social clubs where older generations described feeling a rare sense of belonging. It also explores the sometimes tense relationship between early cinema and feminine sexuality, which Anglo-Indian women were uniquely placed to attempt to negotiate. Bringing together archive film, costume, and a movie set-like installation, it references railway stations, waiting rooms, and a sense of being stuck somewhere ‘in-between’.

An audio work of a new prose poem by Tessa is at the heart of the soundtrack, which draws on mixtape culture, from politically conscious American soul to classic rock’s exoticisation of India. It is contrasted with field recordings of machinery and trains; the mechanical beat to which the empire ran.

Download the transcript below.

Installation environment with text, sound, objects, two-channel video (20 mins)

Commissioned by and developed in residency at FACT as part of the Jerwood Arts / FACT Digital Fellowship, supported by Jerwood Arts. Supported with funds from Arts Council England and Liverpool City Council.