Retrospective | Nalini Malani: You Can't Keep Acid in a paper bag at Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

“You Can’t Keep Acid in a Paper Bag” is artist Nalini Malani’s first ever retrospective showcasing in India. Conceptualised in three-parts, each chapter ran for three months to present her art practice of the last five decades. The relevance of the huge body of work produced by her over the years has grown multifold in the times we live in. The metaphoric title of the exhibition, a line from her old diary, summarizes her overriding concern about a world as fragile as a paper bag, not designed for the acid, the toxic that humans have infiltrated into spaces, both physical and psychological. This uneasy terrain of a politically honed art practice has pushed Nalini Malani to obsessively and intuitively grow a rich repertoire of imagery and vocabulary as early as the mid-sixties, to communicate difficult themes pertaining to the violated bodies of women, that often fall into the bracket of being both “unpaintable and undesirable.” Being the most experimental and equally radical in her art making, her retrospective also brings home some of her installations and international projects that have never been shown in India before.

The exhibition showcases her sketchbooks, early photograms, experimental films and videos alongside her immersive installations that challenge the scale and architecture of the museum-space with rotating mylar cylinders suspended from the ceiling and shadow play projections creating a live theatre, often collaborating with performance artists, musicians and writers. Her own performative gesture of drawing large charcoal female figures on the museum wall and its erasure towards the end of the exhibition by the security guards of the museum was quite compelling, layered with provocative intent and cultural content. 

26 September 2014