Text by Karina Kirnos
Photographs by Monica Ragazzini

"Riceville/Whiteville" (2006) was a temporary landscape installation by visual artist Monali Meher. The piece consisted of the artist building temporary structures made of natural, site specific materials at a construction site for a new bus station. The materials included sand, bricks, cement tiles, wood, and rice the artist cooked right on site of the installation. She then used the rice as both decoration and holding material for the structures she created. Meher did not ask for the construction to stop in order to exhibit her installations, but instead wanted the installations to get destroyed overnight so that she would have to begin again the next day and rebuild. She did this for three days, seven hours per day. 

The site-specific installation created by durational performance refers to the death ritual of the artist's origin. A growing landscape installation expands through performance and is a memory of ceremonial procedure relating to the cyclical movement of end and renewal.

The transitory structures were made with cooked rice, sand, and bricks on the spot where the area was under construction. Household utensils were used as moulds to form different shapes of cooked rice in this construction together with materials from that site and juxtaposed with the urban surrounding of modern architecture in Uithof, university town in Utrecht, Netherlands.

‘Rice’ as basic food is known globally. The act of cooking rice outside on the  open field with a primitive installation and organically built temporal structures is a significant contrast to the ‘civilized’ environment.  Possible change or damage in the newly built structure due to traffic, people or natural calamities during the performance was unavoidable. Transformations were organically adopted throughout the performance as the artist persisted in her act of making territorial landscape.

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Monali Meher’s art practice involves various disciplines. The most significant one is ‘Performance Art’. Decay, hybridization & transformation: Creating new identity; reshaping belongings; intimacy; a dialogue of matter and memory all these constitute the language of her work. “Time” as a factor, is central to her practice, whether it’s a wrapped object or a performance. She uses time as medium, which is extended, assembled and captured. The aspects of continuity, repetition, vulnerability, duration, temporality, awareness, situation and public involvement are also inherent qualities that inform her art practice. The process before and after the performance is equally important and challenging. Meher graduated in Fine Arts from Sir J. J. School of arts, Mumbai. She received ‘Unesco-Aschberg’ residency in Vienna 1998, Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten 2000-‘01, Amsterdam and ‘Casa Masaccio’ San Giovanni Valdarno, Tuscany, Italy 2012. She performed and exhibited her work internationally; at Tate modern, Sinop Biennale Turkey, Rijksmuseum Twenthe, Khoj Live New Delhi, DaDao Beijing, Art Dubai, ‘Rebelle’, MMKA Arnhem, NRLA Glasgow, bLA Amsterdam, Prague Biennale 5th, MAXXI museum Rome, Guangzhou Live 11 China, Infr’action Sete, France, LA 7 Gothenburg Sweden, IPA Istanbul modern museum, 4th Thessaloniki Biennale, University UFO & Sustainability 2014, Ghent, Belgium, ICASTICA ’13, Arezzo Biennial, Italy where she received the prestigious ‘Golden Chimera Award’ for the innovation and originality. Meher received LIVE Funds 2009 by BKVB Amsterdam. In 2011 she manifested ‘The Bridge Is Open’, public Space installation under Willem’s bridge, Haarlemmerpoort, Amsterdam; funded by Amsterdam Fonds voor de Kunst, Fonds BKVB, Co-operated by DIVV, DOCK Stadsdeel West. Since year 2000, Meher lives and works in Amsterdam, NL. Her website can be found here.