An everyday look behind national headlines
Karanjeet Kaur, Mail Today (New Delhi), Pg 24, 20 March 2009

Shilpa Gupta graduated in sculpture design from the Sir J J School Art in Mumbai. But you wouldn’t guess that from her latest exhibition which employs a broad range of media. The exhibition, brought to the Capital by Vadehra Gallery, is on view at the Lalit Kala Akademi. The Mumbai- based artist uses every conceivable type visual and aural media, in her untitled exhibition.

The exhibition has been work- inprogress, for over a year now. Her chief inspirations are notions of borders, security and categorisation. Even nationhood. Gupta has a series of works, exploring the conceptualisation and construction of nationhood. A projector beams hand- drawn maps of India on the wall, hundred in number. In our Times , is a see- saw with microphones at either end. From the microphones, emanate the speeches of Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Pt. Nehru on the occasion of the Independence of both the countries. The striking thing about the exhibit is the similarity in both the speeches, despite the fact that they stem from either side of the LOC.

Power and the paraphernalia of power make more than one appearance in the exhibition. Untitled Security Belt and Untittled Security cap reminded the viewer constantly about a social stratum that we tend to ignore. A series of photographs of security guards, caught in an unguarded moment, their faces obscured, reifies the idea. “The photographs marked a reversal of the gaze. Post 9/11 and the Mumbai terror attacks, there has been a surge of security around public and private places. These men stand on the roads, with their whole life exposed. I wanted to explore the ideas further,” says Gupta. The seductive and potentially corruptive nature of power is dealt with in the lightbased work, titled, Blind Star Stars Blind . It also happens to be the prettiest of the lot.

Perhaps the most ambitious and stunning exhibit, in the entire exhibition, happens to be Half Widows . It brings together video, music, photography and installation. The video work, fascinatingly displayed on the floor, has a woman playing stapu , wondering if “ he will return.” The fuzzy, pixelated effect of the exhibit gives it an “ everywoman” look. Clothes hang from clotheslines, representing, as the artist puts it, “ missing memories, missing people, missing body parts”. It is inspired by the women of Kashmir, whose husbands have gone missing.

Other exhibits include a series of photographs of people carrying bags that state ‘ This bag does not contain an explosive’. “ That series shows our discomfort with the truth,” says Gupta. Another one, Queues , has pictures of people on rotating cylinders, all in a queue.

If you visit the exhibition, chances are, you'd be in a queue too.

This triptych is part of a video and installation exhibit titled Half Widows by Shilpa Gupta. The work is inspired by the women of Kashmir whose husbands have gone missing