Nalini Malani (Karachi, in present-day Pakistan, 1946) has dedicated her long artistic career to the defence of social, feminist and ecological justice. Her work is constructed as a narrative that interweaves literary references, mythologies and Asian and Western aesthetic forms to create an unmistakable language of great complexity. A bold work that responds to a prodigious intellectual curiosity, committed to the values of radical imagination and socio-political awareness. For all these reasons, Malani has been awarded, in 2019, the Joan Miró Prize, one of the most prestigious and well-endowed distinctions in contemporary art in the world, granted jointly by the Joan Miró Foundation and the "la Caixa" Foundation.
The artist Nalini Malani - speaking via videoconference -, Ignasi Miró, director of the Department of Culture and Scientific Dissemination of the "la Caixa" Foundation, Marko Daniel, director of the Joan Miró Foundation, and Martina Millà, head of Exhibitions at the Joan Miró Foundation, presented the exhibition linked to the prize at a press conference, entitled "No me oyes".
The exhibition, Nalini Malani's first monographic project in a museum in Spain, is an exhibition proposal curated by Martina Millà, Head of Exhibitions at the Joan Miró Foundation, in close collaboration with the artist. The tour reviews fifty years of Malani's trajectory with works that illustrate the principal axes of her work: utopia and dystopia, recent and ancient history of abuse, marginalised stories everywhere and, more specifically, denunciation of the inequality and structural violence suffered by women in the world. This is the position that vertebrates the whole exhibition.
You Can't Hear Me offers the visitor the opportunity to see Nalini Malani's first films from the late 1960s, as well as several series of paintings and immersive installations from the last fifteen years, her most recent digital animations and also wall drawings created specifically for the rooms of the Joan Miró Foundation. At the artist's request, the show only includes works of art from museums and private collections in Western Europe, in keeping with the commitment that Malani acquired in the nineteen-nineties of the past century to sustainable exhibition practices. Consequently, the exhibition has received extensive support from the Burger Collection, Castello di Rivoli and Galerie Lelong.
Two works characteristic of Nalini Malani's practice welcome the visitor. The first is a shadow theatre entitled Things have changed (2008), an installation consisting of 32 transparent cylinders painted on the back, on lathes that turn the motifs they project. The starting point for this work is the myth of Cassandra and her prophetic gift, which for Malani symbolizes the deep and intuitive knowledge of individuals, as well as the way women think and feel, often silenced or despised.
The second piece is a wall drawing from the series Don't you hear me? (2020), created for the halls of the Joan Miró Foundation. This is an ephemeral work that will be erased just before the end of the exhibition, during a performance conceived by Malani whose content will not be revealed to the museum or to visitors until moments before it begins.
Cassandra's fateful story and its contemporary relevance is also the reference of the shocking Escuchar las sombras (2007), which occupies the next scope of the exhibition. This pictorial installation, almost 30 metres long, covers the entire perimeter of the space, with 42 large transparent panels painted on the back that offer a non-sequential narrative.
In the late 1960s, Nalini Malani emerged as a pioneering figure of experimental cinema in India. Her works denounced the discrimination suffered by women in her country, a theme that the artist has continued to explore throughout her subsequent work. The following space of the exhibition brings together the complete set of films produced between 1969 and 1976: Still Life, Onanism, Taboo and the projection on two screens Utopia.
The exhibition then moves on to an area where pictorial works based on Indian epic poems are exhibited on the one hand, and on the other, the panoramic installation All that we imagine as light, produced in the early 2000s using the technique of painting on the back of transparent panels of acrylic sheet. In both rooms Malani transcends the temporal order, making archetypal and mythological images from the past coexist with episodes from the recent history of India, in a dialogue between diverse temporalities that is very typical of her work.
The last room of the exhibition hosts a large video installation of recent creation: Can you hear me? which presents 7 simultaneous projections of 56 short films of digital animation. In her relentless search for new media, Malani has never stopped experimenting with new technologies. Since 2017, she has been making animations with her tablet and sharing them regularly on social networks. This room shows a selection of this work, which takes up important literary references in her work in order to react to issues that concern and question her in real time.
The project is completed with a publication that highlights the role of literature as a recurrent source of inspiration for Malani. Martina Millà, curator of the project, signs an essay on this important aspect of the Indian artist's practice, and presents the exhibition through the readings and literary references that have nourished her creative process.
The works exhibited in You Can't Hear Me are the result of an interdisciplinary investigation of female subjectivity and convey a forceful condemnation of violence that reminds us of the vulnerability of human existence and life in general. Malani's interest in certain female characters from ancient mythology (Greek and Indian) and in the symbols of the modern world has enabled her to develop a universalistic iconographic blend that does not shy away from denouncing contemporary abuses. Past, present and future, memory, myth and resistance are the elements of an extraordinary language of imagination and form, of sensory phenomena and complex meanings that make Nalini Malani's exhibitions transformative experiences for visitors.