This past Friday, Chaia and I got to experience a new exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston called “In Search of Vanished Blood” by Indian installation artist and women’s rights activist Nalini Malani. The piece allowed us to be a part of the art; the installation was not complete until we were in it. Malani’s work moved the both of us so much that we decided to share some of the visuals and our own words below.
To enter Nalini Malani’s multimedia installation In Search of Vanished Blood is to enter into a story come alive. This piece is formed of projected video clips streamed through five hand painted rotating cylinders onto the walls of the museum. The painted shapes and symbols on the cylinders revolve along the walls layering themselves over the videos and paired audio creating a modern zoetrope effect, a collage possessed by movement. Malani’s piece is a combination of Eastern and Western cultural iconography, mythology and tradition all put together to tell the story of displaced womanhood and search for self, a starkly political account presented in a whimsical and revolutionary context.
In Search of Vanished Blood is not a piece to be seen but one to be engaged with, experienced. From the moment you enter the space, the barrier between art, reality, and you is shattered. You are in and of the piece, it is all over you, all around you, and furthermore you are part of it. The use of light and projected image as medium make it so that every movement you make is recorded on the walls as shadow and so you are no longer a bystander but a participant. Your figure breaks up the intended image and infiltrates the narrative; it is both empowering and humbling to realize that with every breath and every step, you have become, somehow, the art. As the voices of women speak about the beginning of time and the end of days and what it means to be a woman in revolt in between both, as images of the bloody feminine form and wild animals and undersea creatures and bits of prose and goddesses and clouds and blasts of pure color loom around you and cover your skin, you are allowed entrance into the the kind of fragmented and erased existence that is both so far from the one you live and yet recognizable in the instinctive memory of womanhood. You become like a child listening to a bedtime story at your mother’s foot, yet the voice is not only hers—it is hers, your own, your sister’s, your grandmother’s, your foremother’s before all of you, and the voices of women you have never heard before. And yet you understand it anyway. The piece has no clear resolution, it is possible to watch the entire looped sequence and not even notice that you have. Malani submerges you so completely in her narrative that you abandon yourself for your bare soul, becoming as incorporeal as the voices and visions around you.For however long you choose to witness In Search of Vanished Blood, you are free of the reality of yourself and instead are fully immersed in the quest.
-Kristen & Chaia
gifs: kristen and chaia // words: chaia