For Nalini Malani, one of the country’s most celebrated contemporary artists, exploring different media has been key to her artistic practice. From painting to film, projected animations to immersive shadow play, Malani’s politically invested works which challenge stereotypes, have found expression in various forms. Of late, she has been creating animation pieces—which she refers to as her “animation notebooks"—on the iPad. Malani posts these audio-visual narratives on her Instagram handle (@nalinimalani), thereby transforming it into a mini-exhibition space.

What might draw you to her animations are her stick-figures. Exploring human conditions such as arrogance, greed and ageing, they function as telling portraits of society. Often, these figures are peculiar, deformed human shapes. “I like the work of Spanish artist Francisco Goya, who made The Disasters Of War," Malani says on the phone. “It reflects how, in times of extreme human cruelty, what humans resort to and how absurd it is. My animations ask similar questions—and it is society’s inhumanness that translates into these deformed figures."

Nalini Malani. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/ Mint
Nalini Malani. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/ Mint

As abstract as these visuals may appear, each has a storyline which prods you to think. “I recently posted an animation where four people are fighting over a border in the sky. Now, can you really make a border in the sky with a wrought iron fence?" In our current global scenario, where nations are drawing out higher, fiercer geographical borders, this artwork indicates a strong possibility. It foreshadows a dystopia, if we’re not careful.

For an artist who has held exhibitions at museums across the globe (she recently had a retrospective at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris), Malani is now exploring Instagram as a viable platform. “On Instagram, you get a very wide audience. No matter how large an exhibition I might have in a museum, on social media I get a very special kind of vast and diverse audience. And in that sense, I get to touch a much larger chunk of the world."

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