Shilpa Gupta is an interdisciplinary artist and curator, exploring the dialogue between globalization, technology, gender, and race. Over the last decade, Shilpa Gupta has created an intensely evocative and challenging body of work engaging with the personal, the socio – cultural, the political, memory and history.
SA: Your approach is interdisciplinary; what is the role of research in your work and its importance? Does the research get synthesized into your practice? Or is the method determined by the project? Is the content in the work more important to you or the form?
Both content and form are equally important and totally interconnected. It is first a sensation that one has which gets translated to the work and then the source/reason of where it comes from (the content) and how does one want to make it and share it (the form) are intertwined. It is the desire to seek the source, where and how are constructs made that lead to research. Also the understanding that the media today, which has such a large presence in the way we see and understand the world, manipulates information that it processes to suit the people who control it, is what drives this desire.
SA: Does the research get synthesized into your practice? Or is the method determined by the project?
There is not standard really and depends as per the project. Sometimes what one knows and understands, rather attempts to understand, converges into a piece directly, sometimes, the piece asks for more information and sometimes the information one gathers and comes across may filter into several projects in different ways. It is a loop of events and concerns. And one must also acknowledge the role of accidents and associations, which lead to how works crystallize.
SA: Your work employs a whole gamut of nonconformist tactics - how do the different facets of your practice inform/complement or compete with each other? What drives your desire to work across so many disciplines?
I work with everyday
material that surrounds us and I am particularly drawn to media that seamlessly
merges with our daily lives in print, television or Internet. Being reproducible
and can be easily distributed.
SA: Your art deals with issues of cultural fragmentation/ globalization. Is there a dynamic that is very specific? Or is it more generalized to cultural, socio – political experiences? Or both creating a contextual relation to each other?
We live today in an
increasingly glocal world. With deep electronic media penetration distances
have quickly collapsed propelling a very visible large change. But the
world remains far from homogenous, and experiences and cultural geographies
cannot be drawn as per map book references. Parts of Bombay will be closer
to Paris, which is thousands of miles away than a village a few hundred
SA: Are your works born out off or are a response to a political crisis? Identity politics? More broadly do you believe that yours is a socially engaged art practice? Or do you distance yourself from any sort of identity politics?
I am unable to understand why politics is looked upon as a distant word. Are we not all part of a society together? My work is about life around me that I attempt to understand through being an artist. The brutal 1992 riots, the Gujarat genocide continues to disturb but also the rise of security men in Mumbai, several of whom are migrants into Mumbai, from places such as Nepal, Kashmir, Bihar and UP whose eyes look at you and away walking down the streets between home and studio. The Half Widows, it is about greed, desire, hope and loss, mapped onto a nation, and so also onto a woman. Am interested in the several multilayered inter-related structures and definitions of a society and individuals relationship to them, which are not always apparent.
are you driven by the latest technological inventions, or do you basically
work with the premise that you know what is going to be able to realize
the idea that you have? How does the creative part, the conceptualization,
how does that work for you?
SA: There are formal elements in your work that have references from history, such as Nehru’s (stroke of midnight) speech, reference to Gandhi’s three monkeys, concerns with the ‘border’…What is your interest in repeating such concerns - in terms of history, in the age of globalization…. as they reverberate with so many different readings?
This is a rather broad long question. The one thing that can say here is that I am interested in history as am interested in memory, desire and time vis a vis structures that we create for ourselves. Be it the Constitution, or the Gandhi’s three monkeys or Borders, they are all either mass sanctioned or dreamed-for definitions of manuals and guidelines, which we have seen, get brutally violated, trespassed, broken, re-interpreted to new false conveniences. One gets shaken up and disturbed by these mass violence’s and therefore looks for what was said about them in the past, and history is not that far away – parts of it continue to stay and dominate the present and it is very interesting what stays and what gets left behind.
SA: Does your interactive art create a reciprocal relationship between the artist and the spectator? How do you respond to the user/ viewer co-informing the content of your work? Does this in anyway lead to a dialectical critique?
I would agree that
in the larger practice there is a constant feedback from the viewer where
one work feeds into another into another. There are several angles to