NALINI
MALANI

UTOPIA!?
Museum
19 DEC 2020 - 29 AUG 2021

This will be the first exhibition of celebrated Indian artist Nalini Malani (Karachi, Undivided India, 1946) in Portugal. Widely known for her paintings and drawings, the show at Serralves features only animations produced between the late 1960s and the present, an equally significant side of her work with which the public might be less familiar.


With her provocative, feminist voice Nalini Malani burst onto the male-dominated Indian art scene of the late 1960s, going on to pioneer media such as experimental film, video and installation. The artist not only gave women a voice, but stood out for her concern with social issues, giving a role to the marginalized through visual stories (namely animations) that explore the themes of feminism, violence, racial tension and post-colonialist legacies.

Made between 1969 and 2020, the animations shown in Serralves have been grouped under the sign of Utopia (the actual title of the earliest work featured here). On the one hand, they illustrate the utopian sentiment that followed India’s independence and, on the other, the disillusionment with the path the country had taken under the rules dictated by the religious orthodoxy. However, Malani’s works transcend national trauma to deal with social injustice at a global level. Such is the case of the large immersive installation that closes off the exhibition. Consisting of nine video projections of animations and phrases, Can You Hear Me? [Consegues ouvir-me?] is based on a brutal story that took place in India involving the violent death of a child, but the piece is in fact an ode to all of those who are voiceless. Produced between 2017 and 2020, the installation includes animations containing juxtaposed images by the artist and fragments of quotes of writers as influential as Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Bertolt Brecht, Veena Das, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Milan Kundera, George Orwell and Wislawa Szymborska. According to the artist, Can You Hear Me? corresponds to the type of animation that she has been focusing on recently, which she calls ‘notebooks’ (digitally created on an iPad). As Malani has stated: ‘When I see or read something that captures my imagination, I have a need to react with a drawing or drawings in motion. Not exactly in its mimetic form but more as a ‘Memory Emotion’. I feel like a woman with thoughts and fantasies shooting from the head. Each of them can have different ideas and may not feel like it is from the same person. Each of these voices in my head needs therefore a different penmanship’.

 

The exhibition in Serralves comes in the wake of the 2019 Joan Miró Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the contemporary art world. Now in its seventh edition, the prize, which is organized by Fundació Joan Miró and "La Caixa" Foundation, allowed Nalini Malani to present a monographic show at  Fundació Joan Miró in 2020, which brought about a conversation between her and  William Kentridge, the South-African artist renowned for his installations, which, like  Malani’s animations  shown in Serralves, resort to videos with moving drawings to confront the viewers with the lives of those who are silenced, suffer injustice and are underprivileged. Because this conversation illuminates the motivations behind Malani’s works in UTOPIA!?, we have made available the Fundació Juan Miró link, as well as a conversation between the artist and Emily Butler, the curator of Whitechapel Gallery (London), which currently hosts (from 23 September 2020 to 6 June 2021) the installation Can You Hear Me? as part of their prestigious annual programme of art commissions. 

 

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UTOPIA!?

This will be the first exhibition of celebrated Indian artist Nalini Malani (Karachi, Undivided India, 1946) in Portugal. Widely known for her paintings and drawings, the show at Serralves features only animations produced between the late 1960s and the present, an equally significant side of her work with which the public might be less familiar.


With her provocative, feminist voice Nalini Malani burst onto the male-dominated Indian art scene of the late 1960s, going on to pioneer media such as experimental film, video and installation. The artist not only gave women a voice, but stood out for her concern with social issues, giving a role to the marginalized through visual stories (namely animations) that explore the themes of feminism, violence, racial tension and post-colonialist legacies.

Made between 1969 and 2020, the animations shown in Serralves have been grouped under the sign of Utopia (the actual title of the earliest work featured here). On the one hand, they illustrate the utopian sentiment that followed India’s independence and, on the other, the disillusionment with the path the country had taken under the rules dictated by the religious orthodoxy. However, Malani’s works transcend national trauma to deal with social injustice at a global level. Such is the case of the large immersive installation that closes off the exhibition. Consisting of nine video projections of animations and phrases, Can You Hear Me? [Consegues ouvir-me?] is based on a brutal story that took place in India involving the violent death of a child, but the piece is in fact an ode to all of those who are voiceless. Produced between 2017 and 2020, the installation includes animations containing juxtaposed images by the artist and fragments of quotes of writers as influential as Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Bertolt Brecht, Veena Das, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, Milan Kundera, George Orwell and Wislawa Szymborska. According to the artist, Can You Hear Me? corresponds to the type of animation that she has been focusing on recently, which she calls ‘notebooks’ (digitally created on an iPad). As Malani has stated: ‘When I see or read something that captures my imagination, I have a need to react with a drawing or drawings in motion. Not exactly in its mimetic form but more as a ‘Memory Emotion’. I feel like a woman with thoughts and fantasies shooting from the head. Each of them can have different ideas and may not feel like it is from the same person. Each of these voices in my head needs therefore a different penmanship’.

 

The exhibition in Serralves comes in the wake of the 2019 Joan Miró Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in the contemporary art world. Now in its seventh edition, the prize, which is organized by Fundació Joan Miró and "La Caixa" Foundation, allowed Nalini Malani to present a monographic show at  Fundació Joan Miró in 2020, which brought about a conversation between her and  William Kentridge, the South-African artist renowned for his installations, which, like  Malani’s animations  shown in Serralves, resort to videos with moving drawings to confront the viewers with the lives of those who are silenced, suffer injustice and are underprivileged. Because this conversation illuminates the motivations behind Malani’s works in UTOPIA!?, we have made available the Fundació Juan Miró link, as well as a conversation between the artist and Emily Butler, the curator of Whitechapel Gallery (London), which currently hosts (from 23 September 2020 to 6 June 2021) the installation Can You Hear Me? as part of their prestigious annual programme of art commissions.