Nalini Malani’s “In Search of Vanished Blood” is a deep look into histories of violence where the Nation meets the global, powers shift, and the female body is so often a voiceless battleground. The work weaves together a dialogue informed by Malani’s experience as a refugee of the 1947 Partition of India that occurred shortly after her birth. Made up of shadow play, video projections and recited texts her multi channel narrative blends the past with current fears, underlining how battles have raged in loops of religious division and colonization of country and body throughout history. In her use of overlapping motifs and illustrations Malani contradicts the Western use of abstraction as a way to distant oneself from oppressive ideals. Particularly powerful are her clips of women’s faces, veiled and unveiled, looking across at each other through a haze of bloodstains, religious and mythical icons, and projected text that speak to the divisions made upon them. The work investigates the complexity of local traditions whose imagery can protect you in their familiarity but ideas that can alternatively break you in their intolerance. All to point out that to confront the present fully, one cannot so easily forget the past.
Nalini Malani: In Search of Vanished Blood
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
June 29-October 16, 2016