Shilpa Gupta: Drawing in the Dark
21 June – 17 August 2018
Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art is delighted to present Drawing in the Dark, a solo exhibition of works by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta. The title of the exhibition refers to the clandestine movements and practices in borderlands, and to the metaphor of the line, or threshold, that links several of the works on display.
Gupta’s work tackles notions relating to borders, showing that cultural transfers and exchanges of an economic or human nature subjectively redraw official frontiers, suggesting a redefinition of nation states. By examining the permeable nature of imaginary boundary lines Gupta aims to initiate a dialogue on the perception and construction of identity, nationality and place. The concept of borders and movement play heavily in her work, with specific reference here to the border between India and Bangladesh, which spans several thousand kilometres and upon completion will be the world’s longest separation barrier between two nation states. In late 2016, Gupta returned to parts around the contested Bangladesh-India border fence where she collected images, objects, and stories about everyday life. Regardless of state intentions, tight surveillance and security control, daily life continues with the flow of people and goods spurred by close historical and social links and necessary economic survival.
This exhibition brings together a series of works that can be seen as a collection of narratives, drawing a picture of subversive, illegal and informal streams of goods, people and desires. Showing for the first time in this touring exhibition Drawings Made in the Dark, 2015, a series of pencil drawings on paper, appear as hand-drawn maps revealing a covert location. The interactive sound installation, Speaking Wall, 2009-10, invites the viewer to listen to a set of headphones at the end of a narrow pathway of bricks. Combined with electronic messages displayed on the LCD panel on the wall in front, a voice recalls a conversation providing instructive details of a steadily shifting border. The notion of fluctuating borders are addressed in the sculpture Map Tracing, 2017, where Gupta bends a copper wire into the outline and shape of the country where the work is shown.
Hanging from the ceiling, the sculpture 24:00:01, 2010-12, is a motion flap-board, similar to those announcing departure and arrival times at train stations, except this one presents a series of statements referring to themes of identity and place. The rhythmic percussion of the flapboard is echoed in the clapping sounds of the Song of the Ground, 2017, alluding to the sounds of footsteps on stones. The set of ghostly drawings that Gupta makes from marijuana pigments, the photographic series in which she superimposes detached motor parts over images of the sky, and the form she constructs from shredded Bangladeshi sari scraps—all of these refer to objects that cross the border illegally. The people, animals and goods do not obey any rule, like those photographed clouds, like those stones swept along by the region’s rivers, stones whose struck sound we hear in the exhibition. Shilpa Gupta reminds us that life under a collective sky never stops jeopardizing the contours imposed by the world map.
This series of works is an extension of the My East is Your West project developed for the 2015 Venice Biennale organised by Gujral foundation and included works by Rashid Rana. The exhibition is a collaboration with KIOSK (Ghent, Belgium), Kunstverein Bieleflder (Bielefeld, Germany) and Centre d’Art Contemporain La Synagogue de Delme (Delme, France) with a series of new works presented in this exhibition at Parasol unit, London.