Nalini Malani

In Search of Vanished Blood

In Search of Vanished Blood by Nalini Malani

Artwork Detail

‘Dwelling on the threshold between visible and invisible, recent history and its shadows, Nalini Malani’s work can be said to hold on to the mythological tradition at large; by appropriating both Eastern and Western myths, Malani transforms her own social and historical experience into the visual idioms of a language that is shared and personal at the same time.’ (Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, In Search of Vanished Blood, 2012, Hatje Cantz, p.8)

This work is the single channel version of Nalini Malani’s large-scale multi-media ‘video/shadow play’, 'In Search of Vanished Blood', 2012 that featured in dOCUMENTA (13). The latter work consists of six video channels with five rotating reverse painted mylar cylinders. The artist is widely considered the pioneer of experimental video art in India and one of the foremost artists working internationally in the field of inter-media and inter-disciplinary practice. In Search of Vanished Blood further extends Malani’s considered exploration of violence, the regenerative power of myth, the feminine voice, and the geo-politics of national identity.

'In Search of Vanished Blood' is titled after the 1965 Urdu poem Lahu Ka Surag and references the novel Cassandra, 1984, by Christa Wolf as well as Rainer Maria Rilke’s book, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1910. The soundscape comprises collaged texts from Heiner Muller’s Hamletmachine, 1977, Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape, 1958 and Gayatri Spivak’s 1997 translation to English of the story Draupadi by writer Mahasweta Devi. While referencing the place of women in Indian society, this work translates across cultures and time to other contexts and conditions in its interrogation of issues relating to justice, gender and their representation.

Born in Karachi the year before the partition of the Indian subcontinent, Malani’s own history of displacement as a refugee deeply informs her practice. Her work is dedicated to the possibility of change in the uncertain and urgent space where social activism, history and artistic forces coalesce. Trained as a painter, Malani’s early studio practice saw her collaborate with theatre directors, dancers and poets, before studying philosophy and linguistics in Paris with Chomsky, Althusser and Barthes. Malani draws on personal narratives as well as literature, theatre, music, song, poetry and the stories of individuals marginalised or excluded from the cannons of politics, literature and history. In her video/shadow plays, these intimate and often traumatic stories become entwined within a complex layering of immersive pictorial space that embraces both the memorial and the aural. The artist draws on early Italian Renaissance painting cycles and South Asian traditions of reverse painting, alongside more recent techniques of animation and proto-cinematic projection. Malani notes, ‘Memory is what you are, past is in the present and in the future.’(Malani quoted in Jyoti Dhar, ‘In the Heart of Darkness: Nalini Malani in ArtAsiaPacific, 84, July/Aug 2013 p.63)

In Search of Vanished Blood
Nalini Malani
Production date
single channel digital video, 16:9, colour, sound
Credit line
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of an anonymous donor, 2014
Accession no
Copying restrictions apply
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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