For her solo show, “Meat markets and Spirit houses,” Monali Meher presents a sensitive and contemplative blend of video and mixed media works. She combines experiences and emotions, old and new in order to give the viewer a sense of what it means to be familiar but at the same time distant. She renders the collected materials and reshapes the memory from residencies in Karachi, Pakistan and in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Throughout the collection of works, Meher observes, assimilates and reflects in order to identify with her new surroundings as an Indian artist based in Europe, yet very much present in Chiang Mai or Karachi. Performative and ritualistic moments in the markets, houses, open spaces, nature and cultures become mystical encounters perceived from vivid perspective.
In Meher’s self portrait work “Hunt” she camouflages her face with a hunting hat in Chiang Mai, Thailand. During her residency she noticed that all the hunters and farmers in the area wore these hats for protection against insects and weather. In Meher’s reworked portrait pieces and her video entitled, “Camouflage dragon” she assimilates the costume and posture of people around her. She could resemble a hunter who would be clammed up by the bank of the lake or a farmer working in the rice paddy field absorbed under the strong sun. At the same time as she is camouflaging herself for practical survival in this rural area, she re-inserts her own identity into this foreign, yet familiar backdrop. This video is a moving, time-based still life and representation of one of the many geckos she was confronted with every day and night. She leans on the dragon wall covering, her face and head covered with camouflaged hat, protecting herself from the strong sun and being as still as possible to blend in with the rest, as to blur one’s individuality. The character remains a mystery with contradiction.
In her reworked portraits she brings her signature red thread into the self portrait photographs, and by doing so creates an additional layer of personal associations or emotions, enabling the viewer various ways of perceiving these works.
Meher observes the market place, architectural and open spaces with a fascination for their aesthetic and performative qualities. In her video work entitled, “Doi Saket”, shot in Doi Saket, Chiang Mai, Thailand, she documents the fascinating twirling mechanisms used to keep flies away in the meat market. Using photographic portraits she documents the intricate patchwork cloths, which are sewn together to form a market place rooftop in Karachi, Pakistan. In Chiang Mai, Meher used improvised lanterns made from market place packaging in order to create a spirit house installation in an open field. In a public night-time performance she ceremoniously burnt the spirit house lanterns. Drawing on local customs, she transformed an open field into a re-activated space of her own interpretation.