Pasztor, Erika Katalina | media artist
Budapest, Hungary
<< main page


published in:
Balkon, Budapest 2003 September

Electronic monuments

Video installations of Minette Vári and Nalini Malini at the World Wide Video Festival, Amsterdam 2003


Minette Vári: Chimera (video installation, 2001)
image (1): Minette Vári: Chimera (video installation, 2001), resource: wwvf catalogue


Minette Vári projected moving morphs of human and animal figures cutout from video image and deformed by computer onto three huge semitransparent screens. The moving images reflected from floor and walls made their way through the screens, projected onto each other and both sides of the screens. Vári invents the continuously changing spatial body of rays of light. Monumental human and animal torsos fuse in the room with a scarcely audible sound mixed of steps, music and fragments of whispers. Entering the room, you find yourselves in the middle of a dream of an indecisive sign not knowing, whether it is a dream or a nightmare. Should you be afraid, horrified or just enjoy this constant change? The title of the installation is Chimera, a character known from Greek mythology. The monster uniting power of three different animals - the lion, the goat, and the snake - is the dreadful enemy of Man. Vári's Chimera, which contains images of her own body fitting almost unnoticeable in the projected mutations, is an aestheticism spatial penetration of electronic images. In this space beauty and beast is present simultaneously, the monster is inside us, surrounds us. The pain behind the distorted bodies is eerie; the reflections - the connections  - are enthralling.


Minette Vári is a South-African. The monument of the Boer independence, the Vortrekker Monument was built in Pretoria for three hundred thousand pounds in between 1937-1949, proposed and realized by nationalist joint forces. The memorial of the big trek of the Boers is a robust building resembling from the outside an enlarged tomb stone. Entering the 41 meters high Heroes' Hall, one finds on the wall a 92 meters long relief, made of 27 Italian marble slabs. It is one of the largest of its kind in the world, exposing the sufferings of the Boers while looking for a new home and occupying territories from the aborigines.


Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria, South Africa
image (2): Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria, South Africa resource:

Minette Vári picked out parts of this relief; enlarged and deformed them exactly like selective historical memory manipulates reality. Vári constructs elementary effects; with a little exaggeration, she attitudinizes. She selects a similar artistic achievement and she rewrites it. She doesn't pack up her message but re-mediates it into an another - interpersonal - dimension.

Minette Vári: Chimera (video installation, 2001)
image (3): Minette Vári: Chimera (video installation, 2001) resource: wwvf catalogues


Nalini Malani placed video monitors into 10 trunks opened halfway, throwing out of them female dresses and wooden blocks. She covered the floor with shiny plastic, projected video images wall-to-wall on 3 sides of the room, which made the space colorfully vibrating through the reflections. On the wall facing to the entrance, there is a huge projection of edited found footages of war, devastation and nuclear explosion; on the other wall gestures of young women folding sari enlarged wall-to wall size are projected; in the trunks naturalistic genres run infinitely on the monitors. In the moment of explosion projected in 9 meters long size on the wall, the whole space filled with shaking red colors. A male voice-over tells a story supplementing the ambient noise in which the different sounds of the found footages are melted. Malani's installation is a sensual combination of lights, colors, sounds and materials, like wood, trunks, and dresses. The primary aesthetic experience produced by electronic images overwrites all expandable and explainable information; the composite display has different meaning than its embodied parts. The sum of images and objects is aestheticism above all, like in Vári's installation. After watching close ups of wars, assassinations, and catastrophes in television, the images of reality filtered by media are much more shocking than Malani's narrative, which should be assembled from fragments by the viewer. The experience, which should be staggering, is not like that any more, but it is - perversely - a voluptuous spectacle.


Nalini Malani: Remembering Toba Tek Singh (video installation, 1998)

image (4): Nalini Malani: Remembering Toba Tek Singh (video installation, 1998) resource: wwvf catalogue

According to Nalini Malani, the artist is an activist, whose task is influencing the social processes with the tools of art. In 1999, the Pakistani artist Malini living in India exhibited her work Remembering Toba Tek Singh in Bombay, in the Prince Wales Museum, which is a museum of natural history and traditional arts being a tourist target, visited by thousands of people of different castes and religions[12].  In this environment, Malini's symbols unquestionably must be stronger than in Amsterdam. The trunks and wooden blocks call up the memory of migration and suffering of one and half million people, the death of several hundred thousands after the separation of Pakistan in 1947. The images of sari-folding urban women refer to the meaningless and not-diminishing opposition of Muslims and Hindus and the hate heated by religious dogmas. The imminence of the nuclear tests in 1998, and the defenselessness of the individual is a common memory in the state, which is considered the largest democracy of the world, being out for Nuclear Great Power. In the trunks, the striking images of freak infants are referring to this true nuclear menace.


Saadat Hasan Monto's short story Toba Tek Singh ties all visual fragments together into one single story line. Toba Tek Singh is a name of a man as well as a name of a district in the Pakistani province, Punjab. After the separation of Pakistan, the two countries made an agreement after long negotiations to interchange the lunatics and criminals; so they gave Hindu lunatics staying in Pakistani institutions for Muslim lunatics from India.  The novel describes the chaos and confusion following this news in Lahore, in a Pakistan institution. The narrative depicts the reactions of the idiots who hadn't got the faintest idea of where they were and where they had been before. The story is absurd; a punctual and lyrical diagnose of distress which is left when the locus, the place of identity, becomes uncertain. Surrounded by walls and closed into the institution, the name of the place of origin shrank into a meaningless word in the lunatics's mind and the incomprehensible transformation of the countries' names entirely jumbled up the remaining fractions of their identity.


"It was anybody's guess what was going to happen to Lahore, which was currently in Pakistan, but could slide into India any moment. It was also possible that the entire subcontinent of India might become Pakistan. And who could say if both India and Pakistan might not entirely vanish from the map of the world one day?" [13]


Malani's installation is a narrative and aesthetic artwork, its elements can be emphasized according to changing contexts. In Amsterdam, it is above all spectacular and technical, in Bombay it's narrative. In India it is more against nationalism, on the Bombs Away exhibition arranged between July 5 and August 15, 2003 by the gallery of Wellington University in New Zealand[14], its opposition against Nuclear Power is more highlighted. The narrative content constructed of fragments is accessible through a stunningly enriched space of electronic images, via a catchpenny aesthetic experience. Nalini Malani, the activist artist cunningly packs her message into colorful shine to augment the space where her message has presumably larger effect.


Erika Katalina Pasztor


Budapest, August 3, 2003

[12] Pijnappel, Johan: Remembering Toba Tek Singh, Nalini Malani Video Installation. 20. World Wide Video Festival Amsterdam CD-ROM 2003. editors: Tom van Vliet, Lilet Breddels

[13] Monto, Sadaat Hasan: Toba Tek Singh. in: Selected Stories by Khushwant Singh Land of five rivers. Orient Paperbacks Delhi online: [visited: 2003.06.28.] in: The Vintage Book of Indian Writing, 1947-1997. Edited by Salman Rushdie and Elisabeth West. First published in Great Britain by Vintage, 1997

[14] Power and Propaganda in Adam Art Gallery. Scoop Media. 2003.06.24. Press Release: Victoria University, Wellington online: [visited: 2003.06.27.]


<< main page