Catalogue text, 'Subcontingent ' Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin


Artist name: Shilpa Gupta
born in (date), where...: 26 August 1976, Mumbai
Lives and works in, Mumbai
Languages spoken .....(foreign and local) Hindi, English.
Languages understood: partially, Marathi, Gujrati

Where did you study art? Was that in your hometown?

Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai.

Did you study in the same language you grew up in?

While growing up, Hindi was spoken at home and English was the only language permitted at school. Hindi and Marathi were allowed only in the respective language classes.

What relationship does your language have with your identity?

As it would be, language has to do with the residues from the past slipping into the present. Hindi was the first language I heard, as it came with my grandparents when they migrated into the young city of Bombay post independence, end of 1940’s.
The Hindi I speak, six decades later, is different. It is a BMombai Hindi which like the city with migrants from all over, has in it histories and traces of the many people that have come and still keep coming into it.

But have become out of practice for writing in any Hindi. And the Hindi which I often read, is becoming Hindi written in English, in advertisements and film billboards across the city. Even faster than the Hindi written in Hindi. But mind you, an English person from England will not be able to speak the authentic Hindi reading it in the most authentic English.

Do you speak your mother tongue in your daily life home/work?

In a way I don’t speak my authentic mother tongue at all. It is a hybrid Hindi that I speak which my grandmother and aunts understand and sometime may speak too. With the younger people at home, it is Hinglish, sentences fused with both local Hindi and English words.

At work, it is primarily English within the art scene but in terms of production team it would also be Hindi. With the video editor it is English, with the programmer mostly Hindi and some English, with the carpenter and Janta Book Center shopkeeper it is Hindi. Art books, art openings, art conferences, magazines, newspapers, novels, city street signage, numbers, computer desktops, keyboards, as it is in this interview it is English. But then there are also other art openings in which where the language is Hindi and Marathi.

Language like identity becomes a constantly morphing past present. The two do not run parallel and nor have the same footprints. It can also be that less spoken language is more closely related to framing of an identity which may be transpired in another language.