Surveying The Feminist Work of Nalini Malani

June 28, 2020

One of the most prolific female artists who appeared on the Indian art scene during the late 1960s and 1970s from India, Nalini Malani is a pioneer of video art and a prolific figure of feminist prominence. She has developed a unique artistic trajectory on both local and international scale, and her entire practice is centered around the questioning Asian and Western aesthetics and mythologies in order to unravel the burden of patriarchy, colonialism, and personal and collective trauma.

In 2019, Malani was announced the winner of the 2019 Joan Miró Prize, and as part of the same Fundació Joan Miró which gives the award organized an extensive survey honoring her lasting practice with large-scale immersive installations that include her early films from the late 1960s, painted panels made over the past fifteen years, as well as with video projections and animations, shadow plays and wall drawings made for this occasion.

Nalini Malani - Part Object, 2008. Polyptych, 12 panels. Acrylic, ink and enamel paint on acrylic sheet 236 x 315 cm. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co © Fundació Joan Miró. Photo: Tanit Plana

The Deliberation

The jury panel for the Joan Miró Prize concluded that Nalini Malani is the artist who encapsulates Joan Miró's radical imagination and socio-political awareness. According to them, similarly to the celebrated Spanish modernist, she possesses exceptional intellectual curiosity and interest for a continuous dialogue with her contemporaries who influenced her outputs.

Under the curation by Martina Millà, Head of Exhibitions at the Fundació Joan Miró, the current exhibition and Malani’s first solo museum show in Spain, tends to unravel all the dominant motifs and occupations that the artist devotedly pursued throughout her five decades-long career especially the concepts such as utopia and dystopia, the ancient and recent history of abuse, inequality and structural violence against women and other underprivileged groups.

Nalini Malani - Taboo, 1973. Still. Black and white 16mm film transferred on digital medium, 1:58 min. Courtesy of the artist

The Works

The first exhibition room includes two types of work typical for Nalini Malani’s practice; the first being a shadow play installation called The Tables Have Turned (2008) consisting of thirty-two reverse-painted cylinders positioned on long-playing turntables that enable the projected images to rotate, while the second piece is a mural drawing from the Can You Hear Me? (2020), a series that will be erased in a performance conceived by Malani before the exhibition ends.

The myth of Cassandra and her gift of prophecy was the point of departure for The Tables, as well as for Listening to the Shades (2007), the thirty meters painting installation shown in the following room. The third space features Still Life, Onanism, and Taboo, three films Malani produced from 1969 to 1976 and the two-screen installation Utopia.

The following room includes paintings based on ancient Indian poems, and the panoramic installation All We Imagine as Light, from the early 2000s, while the last room features Can You Hear Me?, a recent large video installation of seven simultaneous projections.

Nalini Malani - Listening to the Shades, detail, 2007. Acrylic, ink and enamel on acrylic sheet. Polyptych, 42 panels, 45 x 66 cm each. Burger Collection, Hong Kong

Nalini Malani at Fundació Joan Miró

In brief, all the featured works share Nalini Malani’s close exploration of female subjectivity and criticism of the socially practiced modes of violence.

An illustrated publication with several contributions including the curatorial text accompanies the exhibition.

Nalini Malani: You Don’t Hear Me will be on display at Fundació Joan Miró in Barcelona until 29 November 2020

Nalini Malani, 'You Don't Hear Me' at Fundació Joan Miró


Featured images: You Don’t Hear Me. Nalini Malani - Installation views. Fundació Joan Miró, Barcelona © Fundació Joan Miró. Foto: Tanit Plana; Nalini Malani - The Tables Have Turned, 2008. Shadow play, 32 turntables, acrylic paint, ink, reverse painting on 32 Mylar cylinders, sound piece performed by Alaknanda Samarth, 20 min; variable dimensions. Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Rivoli-Torino © Fundació Joan Miró. Photo: Tanit Plana. All images courtesy Fundació Joan Miró.

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