Solo exhibition by Nalini Malani
On occasion of its 50th annual celebration the Goethe-Institut/ Max Mueller Bhavan Mumbai presents Can You Hear Me? a solo exhibition from the internationally celebrated Indian artist Nalini Malani.
The upcoming exhibition, Can You Hear Me? is Malani’s first solo show in India in five years, and marks her return home to a hero’s welcome after she became the first Asian artist to win the prestigious Joan Miro prize in 2019. Can You Hear Me? contains more than fifty animations by Malani. The first animation, Dream Houses is from 1969, the year the Institut was established in Mumbai, and other works include the ongoing growing collection of animations called Notebooks from 2017/19. The solo expands on Malani’s history with the Institut – in 1993, Malani worked on a collaboration on German dramatist Heiner Mueller’s Medeamaterial (with Alaknanda Samarth), and later in 1997 she did a theatre play and exhibition on Bertolt Brecht’s The Job. The Job was rehearsed at the MMB and performed at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA. The project was a collaboration between the MMB and NCPA.
The title of the exhibition, Can You Hear Me? is taken from a 2018 animation about a minor girl who was raped but nobody heard her cry. This piteous cry, this voice of the dispossessed which is not being heard or is deliberately ignored, is presented in different registers of the ironical, and the absurd, with bright colours and quirky sounds tracks.
Dream Houses is the very first film Malani made at the Vision Exchange Workshop in Bombay, which opened in 1969 (the year the Institut was established in Mumbai), just after she secured her diploma at the JJ School of Art. Dream Houses is an animation film on the idealism and hope that modernism brought in the Nehruvian period. It became a scintillating colour fantasy of a utopian urban landscape inspired by the colour theories of Johannes Itten and the Light Space Modulator of László Moholy-Nagy. In the context of Indian film, Dream Houses is a one of a kind experimental film, which captures the spirit of the time in India. Yet it also belongs to the art history of late international modernism: it was shown in 2016–17 at the MoMA in New York, as part of the one-year exhibition From the Collection: 1960–1969. From Dream Houses there exists two variations. Variation I, has its Indian premiere here.
Over the last 50 years, animations have played an important part in Malani’s art. After Dream Houses and before Notebooks, she made a series of animations with the technique of painting and erasure. This found it’s first place with the work Memory: Record/Erase in the theatre production The Job (in collaboration with the Max Mueller Bhavan Bombay) and later video installations such as Remembering Toba Tek Singh (1998) and video/shadow plays such as Remembering Mad Meg 2007 and In Search of Vanished Blood (2012) which was shown at dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel.
Notebooks is Malani’s latest series of work, started in 2017 made on a Mac Ipad. These animations function as an artist’s sketchbook, where Malani develops her ideas and speaks about the absurdities of life which she encounters, making it into ‘memory emotions’. Each of these animations has an intriguing title, such as Fail Better, Ubu Roi, Red Man, Who is Afraid of Orange, Double Speak, She is gone my Mighty Bird, which the artist categorizes as: socio - political, abstract, masculine/feminine ideology, satirical or more personal. The sound design that Malani makes herself, works frequently as contrapuntal to the contents of the animations. The length is usually less than a minute as this is the limit of Instagram – the platform where she presents these original art works for free, to a wide and diverse audience, circumventing the commercialised art market (www.instagram.com/nalinimalani). The full collection of Notebooks has never been shown as an installation before and finds its world premiere on this occasion, after which it will travel to Malani’s solo exhibition at the Joan Miró Foundation in Barcelona in March 2020. This installation collection is wider than the earlier presentations on Instagram including a selection of longer animations.
Malani’s last Indian solo was the year long retrospective You Can’t Keep Acid in A Paper Bag, at New Delhi’s Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. Since then she has had major retrospectives at the Centre Pompidou and Castello di Rivoli and presented her work twice at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhatten, New York.