Mumbai-based artist Tejal Shahs video work based on Godhra riots has been removed from display in China
It is a video work that has travelled from London to Lyon,Oslo to Rome. Till earlier this week,artist Tejal Shahs I Love My India occupied a central place at Beijings Ullens Center of Contemporary Art (UCCA),as part of a travelling exhibition. Now,upon the request of Indias Ministry of External Affairs,the organisers have been asked to remove it. The video shows people talking about the 2002 Godhra riots,a year after the incident took place in Gujarat. Its terrible what they have done and Im not comfortable with the feeling that the Indian government is becoming censorship-prone to art. Its strange and Im surprised. I cant understand why the Indian government should do this… The work is not offensive,it is playful and has people remembering something that has happened in the past. Its not a national show,its an exhibition at a private gallery, says Ravi Agarwal,another Indian artist participating in the same group show.
Known for her socio-political works,Mumbai-based Shahs single-channel video was part of the much acclaimed exhibition Indian Highway that has travelled the world since it opened at Serpentine Gallery in London in 2008. Shot in a theme park,it raises questions on democracy in India and has people talking about atrocities against Muslims in Gujarat during the riots. While one of the people interviewed in the video is shown saying,Take a gun and kill. That is the trend. There is no democracy left,another terms Indian political system as third class. Talking about the video on her website,Shah notes,The responses are sometimes hilarious and often apathetic,culminating in a sense of loss,of a perceived nationhood and a love for home.
The title,I Love My India,comes from the text on the balloon target-shooting stall that has the words written on the board. The text acts as a catalyst and the board as an interface screen within the visual space,through which the concepts of religion,national identity,self and community are mitigated, notes Shah.
Renu Modi,owner of Gallery Espace,who exhibited Shahs works in Delhi in 2010 states,I cant comment on the work because I havent seen it,but how come the Indian government has woken up so late,after the show has travelled to so many places? The artist herself was not available for comment.