Ahmadi’s single-channel video Lotus, based on her 2013 painting of the same title, is equally haunting. As the animation opens, an enlightened Buddha sits atop a golden lotus throne. Monkeys and humans frolic in the surrounding landscape, holding offerings in the form of bubbles representative of spiritual wisdom. Over time, this Utopia fades. The Buddha’s subjects grow violent, their bubbles turning into bombs. Birds take flight. Stained by blood, the formerly virtuous ruler becomes an ordinary despot.
Both works are as visually striking as they are politically dark, so it’s no surprise their creators identify as painters. As Malani’s lush images are projected on the wall, they bleed together like watercolors — vibrant extensions of her painting practice. Similarly, watching Lotus feels very much like seeing Ahmadi’s original painting come to life; the narrative formerly frozen in time comes to pass before our eyes.