'Free' Trade
Installation , Acrylic Paint and charcoal on board, thread, coin and gold dust, 239x1415 cm, 1996
  Nalini Malani in conversation with
Kamala Kapoor

K.K.: Could you explain the title of your intended work: 'Free'Trade?

N.M.: Free trade, according to Winin Peri era and Jeremy Seabrook, authors of Global Parasites, a book that has had a lasting influence on my thinking, is "based on the neo-classical philosophy and framework of perfectly competitive markets in which resources are optimally allocated by the normal operation of market forces, and both buyers and sellers reap economic gains.


" The truth in this enterprise is quite different. There is little equal interdependence and interaction between trading countries if they happen to be One Third World and Two Third World countries. Powerful and economically advantaged countries often exploit free trade to source cheaper raw materials from the not so economically advantaged world,off load expensive finished goods there which are often useless to the local population, and maintain these countries in subservient development patterns.


K.K.: How do you hope to tackle these issues in your work?

N.M.: As we have been offered a ship's container as a site for installation,
I would like to de-idealize the idea of trade and bring out its exploitative
nature using the container as a metaphor. The ephemerality of the work I plan to
do will contradict the materiality of the commodities that are usually sent
in containers. The trade I am questioning is slave trade, trade in terms of
creating false needs in communities or seductive trade, and intellectual trade
as in the recent instance when the intellectual property rights of an Indian
traditional medicinal herb and insecticide :Neem (Azaderachta indica), was
taken over by the Americans. It is bizzare to think that we will perhaps be
buying back Neem products from the U.S.A. one of these days.

K.K.: Could you talk about the essential impetus in your planned installation 'Free' Trade, for Containers '96?

NM.: The broad based idea for 'Free' Trade, is to try and make visible the cross currents
that come about through exports and imports, e.g. the addiction to consumerism that
has come about in the Two Third World, taking into account the undermining
ramifications - including cultural subversion - this could have in the community at large.


"Free Trade", work made in situ in a ship's container
96 Containers Art Across the Oceans
Copenhagem Cultural Capital
Asian Region Curator Oscar Ho
Indian Curator Kamala Kapoor.


K.K.: Such as?

N.M.: Take the recent invasion of consumer goods: Cardin fashion garments, Kentucky
Fried Chicken, Revlon cosmetics and Coca Cola. What use are these in a country where
the poor are getting poorer? Historically, we have had the East India Company that
initially came from England for trade and stayed to rule India for 300 years.
The economic exploitation was begun by them with the deliberate destruction of
local artisanal industry.For instance, the hands of the weavers of some of the finest muslin in the world, Dacca Muslin, were cut off by these invaders so that Manchester manufactured cotton could replace it in the Indian market. The threads of that trade pattern and practice still persist though they have mutated with time and have now reappeared in the guise of TNC's and GATT. Meanwhile, the people's real needs are being ignored.

K.K.: Could you give some idea of the images you plan to employ in your installation?

N.M.: One idea that I'm mulling over is that of 'one man leap-frogging over another,
symbolical of the parasitical relationship that exists between the One Third World
and the Two Third World. Another image is of two hands entering another person's head
through the eyes and grabbing hold of the brain.




copyright © 2004 Nalini Malani