“The Rebellion of the Dead”: a retrospective of Indian artist Nalini Malani at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Centre Pompidou is hosting a retrospective of Indian artist Nalini Malini, a pioneer of video and performance art.

The Paris branch of the exhibition “The Rebellion of the Dead, Retrospective 1969-2018” on show until early 2018, merges performance, painting, installation and video while exploring both personal and political issues through the lens of narration, trauma and memory.

Image courtesy Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Nalini Malani. Image courtesy Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

Supported by Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), the exhibition “The Rebellion of the Dead, Retrospective 1969-2018” is part of a unique collaboration between Paris’ Centre Pompidou, where it is on show until 8 January 2018, and Castello di Rivoli, Turin (on display from 27 March to 22 July 2018). The artist’s creativity is explored and celebrated across these two exhibitions, with the first section in Paris presenting works from 1969 to 2018, which encompasses the artist’s latest painting series All We Imagine as Light (2016).

The two exhibitions highlight the key concepts which belie Nalini Malini‘s work: utopia, dystopia, her vision of India and of the role of women in the world. The impact of the 1947 Partition of India is felt, something that has been a traumatic experience for Malini’s own family.

Image courtesy Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Nalini Malani. Image courtesy Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

Nalini Malani, 'Damaged Survivors', 1970, collage and photogram, 37 x 46 cm without border (52 x 61 cm with border). Image courtesy Centre Pompidou, Paris.

Nalini Malani, ‘Damaged Survivors’, 1970, collage and photogram, 37 x 46 cm without border (52 x 61 cm with border). Image courtesy Centre Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

As the exhibition’s press release explains, her art is one which depicts far-reaching political issues, around women, violence, stereotypes and exploitative nationalism:

Her explorative investigation of female subjectivity and her profound condemnation of violence – in its insidious and mass forms – is a constant reminder of the vulnerabilities and precariousness of life and human existence. In her art she places inherited iconographies and cherished cultural stereotypes under pressure. Her point of view is unwaveringly urban and internationalist, and unsparing in its condemnation of a cynical nationalism that exploits the beliefs of the masses.

Nalini Malani, 'Onanism', 1969, b/w film, 16mm film transferred to video, 03m:52s. Photo : © Nalini Malani. Image courtesy Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

Nalini Malani, ‘Onanism’, 1969, b/w film, 16mm film transferred to video, 03m:52s. Photo: © Nalini Malani. Image courtesy Centre Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

New work featured in the retrospective includes the recently discovered black and white 16 mm films of 1969-76 including Still Life, Onanism and Taboo. Other highlights include the “video/shadow play” Remembering Mad Meg (2007-2011). In an interview given in the catalogue essay, Malini writes how these earlier black and white films dealt mainly with female protagonists, and this reliance on the female continues into her later work, which tends to consider female mythology:
My own art was from the very start female-oriented. I believe this is natural, a given, as women have a completely different relationship to the body than men. And women also hold a different position in society, anywhere in the world, compared to men. The female protagonists manifest themselves already in my early experimental black and white films such as Still Life (1969), Onanism (1969) and Taboo (1973).
Nalini Malani, 'All We Imagine as Light', 2016, six reverse painted tondi Desire/Rupture, Touch/Ashes and One Day the Streets of the World Will Be Empty: Ø 152 cm The City from Where No News Can Come, I am Everything You Lost and You Needed to Perfect Me : Ø 122 cm Arario Museum, Seoul

Nalini Malani, ‘All We Imagine as Light’, 2016, six reverse painted tondi, ‘Desire/Rupture’, ‘Touch/Ashes’ and ‘One Day the Streets of the World Will Be Empty’: Ø 152 cm; ‘The City from Where No News Can Come’, ‘I am Everything You Lost’ and ‘You Needed to Perfect Me’: Ø 122 cm. Image courtesy Arario Museum, Seoul.

In my later works, I often work with existing female characters from mythology, literature or history, to reintroduce male-dominated history from a female point of view. This one can see in paintings such as Sita/Medea (2006), Talking about Akka (2007) and Cassandra (2009) or my video-based works such as Mother India: Transactions in the Construction of Pain (2005) and Remembering Mad Meg (2007). This feminist approach and commitment will continue for the rest of my life. Over the years, women in selective societies have acquired a degree of equality with men, but still today there is too much left wanting.
Nalini Malani, 'Hamletmachine', 2000, four-channel video play, 20m:00s, looped, sound. Three video projection on screen: 330 x 440 cm (each); One video projection on platform of white salt : 360 x 270 cm. Black reflective floor. Photo: © Arario Gallery. Image courtesy Centre Pompidou, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

Nalini Malani, ‘Hamletmachine’, 2000, four-channel video play, 20m:00s, looped, sound. Three video projection on screen: 330 x 440 cm (each); one video projection on platform of white salt: 360 x 270 cm. Black reflective floor. Photo: © Arario Gallery. Image courtesy Centre Pompidou Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris.

At the heart of Malani’s creative practice is the concept of “painting beyond the frame”, and to this end she relies extensively on video work and installation to expand her oeuvre. Duality is also central to her work, as she grapples and questions the middle ground between two points of reference, or understanding. As mentioned, her work is impacted by her move as a refugee to India, after Partition, where she moved to Calcutta, before settling in Mumbai. During the 1950s, she travelled internationally to Japan and France due to her father’s airline job. While still in high school, anatomy and botany dissections made during biology lessons inspired her to become an artist. She studied fine arts in Mumbai and in Paris in 1970-72.

Nalini Malani, 'All We Imagine as Light', 2016, six reverse painted tondi Desire/Rupture, Touch/Ashes and One Day the Streets of the World Will Be Empty: Ø 152 cm The City from Where No News Can Come, I am Everything You Lost and You Needed to Perfect Me : Ø 122 cm Arario Museum, Seoul

Nalini Malani, ‘All We Imagine as Light’, 2016, six reverse painted tondi, ‘Desire/Rupture’, ‘Touch/Ashes’ and ‘One Day the Streets of the World Will Be Empty’: Ø 152 cm; ‘The City from Where No News Can Come’, ‘I am Everything You Lost’ and ‘You Needed to Perfect Me’: Ø 122 cm. Image courtesy Arario Museum, Seoul.

Of her current exhibition, Director & Chief-curator or KNMA, Roobina Karode, stressed to Art Radar the significant place that Nalini Malini holds within a generation of artists “charged with radical ideas and the makings of the Modernism.”:
In her installations viewers are drawn into a vortex of images, animated with sound, light and movement. Creating worlds within worlds, she defies a complacent position in her practice, each time placing herself outside the comfort zone to act upon situations/issues fraught with violence, trauma and pain.

Anna Jamieson

1989

Related Topics: Indian artistsglobalisationconsumerismvideoinstallation artmythical figures, events in Paris

Related Posts:

Subscribe to Art Radar for more on South Asian contemporary art

Comments are closed.