Regions of Conflict

It is the day before Shilpa Gupta’s solo exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi. Amid the cacophony of workers putting together photographs comes that familiar tryst-with-destiny speech of Jawaharlal Nehru from a singing microphone in a corner.

Written by Vandana Kalra | Published:March 14, 2009 1:31 am

Shilpa Gupta searches for battle zones,from Kurukshetra to Kashmir,in her new solo

It is the day before Shilpa Gupta’s solo exhibition at the Lalit Kala Akademi. Amid the cacophony of workers putting together photographs comes that familiar tryst-with-destiny speech of Jawaharlal Nehru from a singing microphone in a corner. The voice,however,is a woman’s — Gupta’s. The work In Our Times has her narrating the independence-day speeches of Mohammad Ali Jinnah in Pakistan and Nehru in India. “There is so much in common. They are both talking of freedom. At the same time there was so much bloodshed,” says Gupta.

It has been an interesting year for the 33-year-old Mumbai artist,beginning with Le Laboratoire in Paris offering to exhibit and analyse her collection While I Am Sleep. Then an untitled work featuring security belt with whistles travelled to the Serpentine Gallery in London. Back in India,it now occupies space at the newly renovated Akademi. “The show features works made during the last two years,” says Gupta,entering a hall with white clothes hanging from clotheslines. Brazen in its hoariness,the work Half Widows reminds you simultaneously of snow and death. It is about women whose husbands went missing in Kashmir. “This is not documentation. It is just meant to raise questions,” says Gupta.

The exhibition is a search for battle zones,even apocryphal ones. Last year,Gupta went to Kurukshetra in search of the epic battlefield. She could not find the spot where the armies arraigned and heroes fell,but the journey itself turned into the series of photographs Looking for Kurukshetra. She comes to the present,closer home to Mumbai and to the terrain of adolescent angst in Don’t See Don’t Hear Don’t Speak. The photographs of children on the Mumbai beach are accompanied by a robot moving in circular motion and repeating the title of the work. “I chose children from the age group 13-16,” says Gupta,about the age of decisions and restrictions.

Her concerns about conflicts recur in the series There is No Explosive in This,that had Gupta photograph people walking down the streets of London,carrying plastic bags imprinted with the words “There is No Explosive in This”. But Gupta insists that for her art is about everyday. “I’m not an activist artist. I want to be a regular,everyday artist,” she says.

The exhibition at Rabindra Bhavan at Lalit Kala Akademi will go on till March 24

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