Nalini Malani

Nalini Malani lives and works in Mumbai, a city the artist still prefers to call Bombay. Through drawing, painting, installations, and numerous other experimental forms of art she explores the return of violence in history in a context of relentless globalization, especially against women. Profoundly political, Malani’s art draws inspiration from the archetypes present in Oriental cultures and in Greek mythology, seeking to establish a wide-ranging dialogue with disciplines including contemporary theatre and literature. By involving viewers in immersive and multisensory environments, the artist reflects on the devastating effects of war, on the phantoms of religion and on the exploitation of nature.
The Tables Have Turned consists of 32 reverse painted cylinders, placed on platforms similar to turntables that rotate at 4 rpm. The work was originally made for the Biennale of Sydney Revolutions—Forms That Turn in 2008, where it was installed in a round air raid shelter at Cockatoo Island. It will also be displayed at the artist’s solo show at the Castello di Rivoli (autumn 2018).
Lit by small halogen spotlights, the rotating cylinders project an overlapping mixture of shadows that move across the walls. The resulting shadow play speaks of death and devastation presenting images of a Byzantine angel, skulls, fleeing dogs à la Edward Muybridge, and a reference to Albrecht Dürer’s iconic woodcut of Cain slaying Abel. Further images are inspired by depictions of the consorts of gods found in Kalighat painting, a Bengalese style that appeared in the 19th century when royal patronage ended and court painters found themselves unemployed. To Malani, this moment in which painters started addressing social and political issues marks the beginning of modernism in Indian art.
The Tables Have Turned is part of a series of works that draws inspiration from the Homeric myth of Cassandra and from a contemporary reading of the story by writer Christa Wolf in her book Cassandra: A Novel and Four Essays (1983). The work can be interpreted as a metaphor for other catastrophes. The seductive voice that echoes in the space, by actor Alaknanda Samarth, warns that nothing is left to describe the world except the language of the past.