Malani’s work is marked by fragmented images and animations, contrapuntal audio design, allusions to historical myth and the incorporation of the work of preeminent writers, including James Baldwin and Bertolt Brecht. The artist’s broad range of references are connected by sound bites from current news stories. Through this, Malani brings socio-political issues to the forefront of her work. Her commitment to social activism and giving a voice to the dispossessed is informed by her experience as a refugee in India due to the 1947 Partition of the country.
Three iconic works from Malini’s oeuvre, Utopia (1969-1976), Remembering Mad Meg (2007-2019) and Can You Hear Me? (2018-2020), are on display in a chronological narrative to map the development of her practice alongside technological development.
Utopia juxtaposes an eight milimetre film in colour and a sixteen milimetre black and white film. It is a work of complete abstraction. Malani cut out a landscape using black card and shot this from random and unpredictable angles. This work represents her uncompromising feminist voice as she came on to the largely male-dominated Indian art scene in the 1960s.
Remembering Mad Meg reconceptualises Pieter Breughel the Elder’s 1562 painting Mad Meg. In Breughel’s painting Meg is satanic, a symbol of destruction and disaster. Myths, for Malani, reveal universal truths. We see the development of Malini’s practice as she uses iPad animations to bring this myth into the present and challenge both the historical, and contemporary, perception of women. The incorporation of historical myth into her works, therefore, addresses what is happening in our world now.
Can You Hear Me? similarly tackles gender issues from a feminist perspective. The work is named after an 8 year old girl who was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered, yet no one heard her cries. Figures are fragmented and the images and animations, created on an iPad, are projected at strange angles creating an uncanny and disconcerting feeling. This mirrors the unsettling feeling of being disenfranchised and oppressed. Through incorporation of the texts of Baldwin, Brecht, George Orwell, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and Hannah Arendt presents a vision for a future where the oppressed are heard.
Malani fills the M+ gallery with text, images and sound. Visions in Motion is a truly engulfing experience. By exploring cross-cultural and universal themes, the artist has created an engaging and profoundly human work. She asks us what it means to be human in our contemporary social landscape.