Global Crossings Awards Gallery
Introduction Abdel and Amal Kenawy
Andres Burbano
Hellen Sky Kibook
  Kim Machan Nalini Malani Regina Celia Pinto Shilpa Gupta
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Nalini Malani  

Nalini Malani
3\42 Nanik Nivas,
91 Bhulabhai Desai Road,
Bombay 400026, India
Tel: + 91 20 26140832

Artist Statement
The Indian artist Nalini Malani who was born in 1946 in Karachi, saw the gradual erosion of the earlier nationalistic, Nehruvian socialist ideologies giving way to the subtle economic strangulation of the Indian economy by the West. While Indian art for decades was mostly focused on new interpretations of its traditions Malani’s framework has always reached farther then the boundaries of India. The Greek tragedies, politically engaged theatre from the twentieth century such as Heiner Mueller and Bertolt Brecht, Film noir, and Existentialism became source material for many of her large projects.

Malani ‘s works have had an engaged social commitment throughout. Her innovative productions in theatre and video from the nineties onwards have dealt with the axis of globalism and parochialism and the ensuing aggression in the form of sectarian violence, manipulation of history and threat of nuclear war.

  Mother India
Mother India
Copyright © Nalini Malani 

Just after the riots of Bombay in 1992/93 that put Indian secular society out of joint, she was one of the first artists to pick up the video camera as an alternative medium for making art. In the nineties she traversed a labyrinth of different media practices with video, theatre, neon, painting, drawing, installations, combined and montaged them, let them collide. She is an artist ‘pur sang’ and although her latest major works are video installations, she does not call herself a video artist but a painter. Her artworks do not become just a didactic, audiovisual pedagogy, but rather a challenging aesthetic concept on her subjects. The video installation form that she uses for this takes on an aesthetic that seduces the spectator in the first register.

In Hamletmachine, 1999/2000 she portrays fascist leaders bleeding over a body creating a throbbing visual cadence that reaches a cathartic high point from which emerges a large deformed face of a woman howling for her lost world as the Muslim slum of Behrampada burns to ashes. In Transgressions, 2001, she combines the video element with reverse paintings and shadows. On the video projections of white European skin appears the Western clichéd experience of the Orient, combined with shadows of her Kalighat paintings. The narrative proceeds to give critical interpretations on genetic engineering and global marketing strategies, followed by a moronic child’s voice pleading to learn English while languages from India pour down like monsoon rain lost into the earth forever. Like tattoos, these images adorn the fair skin for eternity, in a process of cultural destruction (rather that of cultural creation) that has never come to an end. In works like these Malani has found a hybrid form combining her painting style with video and performance to construct unique ways of contemporary story telling.

For Nalini Malani, art is a search for the working of the mind, convincingly crystallizing questions regarding human behavior. As she tells: ” I do believe in a more progressive society, and I do not refer here to technological progress. It has to do with human beings and tolerance and understanding”.


Ms Malani is one of the pioneers of contemporary Indian art. Although primarily a visual artist, she has over the last decade or two moved into installation and media art. Her influence on other younger artists to experiment with different media is often acknowledged by the art community in India. As far as work with technology goes, mention must be made of Remembering Toba Tek Singh, a 20-minute video installation.

Among other props, this piece used seventeen VCDs, four data projections and twelve television monitors (for more on this piece, see ( Her Sacred and the Profane uses a ‘primitive’ technology of the cinema in conjunction with popular art. An experiment of this kind brings forth the fascination with technology not only to the artist but also to the viewer and the larger public. It does so not by presenting technology per se but by re-presenting common art forms and images.

This re-presentation captures the similarities as well as the differences with the original, popular images. In so doing, technology establishes a common space with artistic expression and thereby gets assimilated within the universe of art. So, although Ms Malani’s work does not deal with ‘high’ technology, her works sublimely captures the spirit of technology – that is, technology that is used does not intrude on the artwork, allows the artwork to retain its autonomy as a piece of art and yet makes it clear that this work has been radically altered by the use of something other than art, in this case some technological intervention.

Her work also satisfies the criterion of global connectedness. Remembering Toba Tek Singh is based on a short story by the well known writer Manto dealing with the events during the partition of the Indian sub-continent into India and Pakistan, reflecting artistically on inhuman and irrational violence. As many commentators have noted, her art often reflects on marginalized voices and is committed to protest, whether it is a response to critique sexual exploitation (as in her Medeaprojekt) or religious/national fanaticism (as in Hamletmachine).

Malani has worked with video since 1991. She started by recording her ephemeral, continuous drawing "City of Desires", on the walls of Gallery Chemould, Bombay, made in protest against the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. Her video works have been an expansion of her practices in drawing and painting. In her multi-media installations she often makes single cell animated drawings that bleed and stain. Foregrounding the dispossessed of the earth, she has worked in theatre collaborations using texts by the German playwrights Heiner Mueller, Bertolt Brecht and the Pakistani writer Sa’adat Hussain Manto which reflect on violence, pain and suffering in the name of nationalism and religion.

She has shown her large scale works in solo exhibitions at Prince of Wales Museum Bombay 1999, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York 2002, Apeejay Media Gallery, New Delhi 2002; Bose Pacia Modern, New York 2004.

A selection of the venues where her presentations have been shown are: The World Wide Video Festivals Amsterdam 1998, 2000, 2002; Century City at the Tate Modern in London 2001; Unpacking Europe, Museum Boymans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam 2002; the Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane 2002; Kalaghoda Festival, Bombay 2003; Multi-Media Art Asia Pacific, Millennium Monument Beijing 2003; Poetic Justice, Istanbul Biennale 2003; House of World Culture, Berlin 2003,Zoom, Museo Temporario Lisbon 2004; Minority Report, Aarhus Art Festival, Aarhus 2004; La Nuit Blanche, Paris 2004; “Homo Ludens” Media_City Seoul 2004;, Crossing Currents, New Delhi 2004; Edge of Desire, Queens Museum 2005; Sharjah Biennale 2005; Venice Biennale 2005.

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