Shilpa Gupta - ein halber Himmel

Press Release Date:
25. November 2010

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  • Maria Falkinger
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Half A Sky

press information from: 25.11.2010

date: 26.11.2010 - 30.01.2011

curator: Julia Stoff

The OK Offenes Kulturhaus Upper Austria is presenting in winter 2010/2011 a solo exhibition of the work of Shilpa Gupta, one of the pre-eminent contemporary Indian artists.

A cross-section of works along with a new installation produced in conjunction with the OK provide a look at the oeuvre of the young Mumbai-based artist. The new piece is an interactive sound installation, a “skin globe” that viewers bring to life with their touch.

Shilpa Gupta works across disciplines and with a variety of media: interactive video, internet, photography, object art and performance. In her diverse works, Gupta blurs the boundaries between art and everyday culture, calling into question how we think and who we are. Her themes include consumer behavior and cravings, violence and security-consciousness, religion, terrorism and human rights, social injustice and power. Shaped by India’s politics and cultural reality, Gupta confronts issues affecting today’s globalized world using contemporary media to convey her message.
She generates an interactive relationship with her audience, whose reactions to the works constitute their finishing touch.

The following works will be on view at the OK

Untitled, 2008

Print on flex, 530 x 200 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

The image of the three monkeys - Don’t See, Don’t Hear, Don’t Speak - is a recurring motif in Gupta’s work. In various photographic series she stages the gestures of this symbolic image with children and adults – holding their hands over their eyes, mouth and ears. She thus points to a wide range of instances in which sensory perceptions are literally blocked, in ways that vary between the playful, distorting, poetic, isolating or clownish.

I keep falling at you, 2010

Sound installation made of thousands of microphones
183 x 380 x 380 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York and Galleria Continua

The cloud- or swarm-like sculpture made up of thousands of microphones hanging from the ceiling is so massive as to look almost immobile – just the opposite of a constantly changing formation. And still another reversal takes place here: the microphones, normally devices into which one speaks in order to be heard by an audience, function as loudspeakers instead, emitting voices and noises. These are the contradictions between appearance and reality the artist plays with in this poetic, powerful and yet extremely fragile installation.

Threat, 2009

Bath soap
interactive installation
15 x 6.2 x 4 cm per piece, 72 x 229 x 107 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

The size, weight and shape of the soap bars are chosen to resemble bricks. They have been stacked up to form a wall, which is to be broken down in the course of the exhibition because visitors are invited to take home one of the bars of soap, inscribed with the word THREAT. Every time they then wash their hands, the threat will literally diminish.

Untitled, 2010

Surveillance camera
Courtesy OK Offenes Kulturhaus

An out-of-control surveillance camera has evidently lost track of what’s going on.

Blame, 2002-04

Small bottles with artificial blood
300 x 130 x 340 cm
Courtesy Maxime Fisher

“Blaming you makes me feel so good. So I blame you for what you cannot control: your religion, your nationality. I want to blame you, it makes me feel good.” This is the inscription on the little red bottle, advertised on posters in the first Blame project. Gupta offered the bottles for sale, exhorting purchasers to separate the (artificial) blood inside according to features of nationality and religion. At the OK the bottles are arranged as if in a laboratory, waiting to be investigated scientifically. Only, the investigation can never lead to a result because cultural and not biological features are the object of inquiry here.

Untitled, 2006

2 photos, 109 x 73.7 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

Shadow 3, 2006

Interactive video projection incorporating the viewer’s simulated shadow
600 x 800 cm
Courtesy Galleria Continua and Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

We become involuntary players in this shadow theater, because something happens to us that we can’t stop: objects fall onto our shadow and stick to it. “I am part of the shadow! But they didn’t ask my permission. Was I born into it?” For Gupta, belonging to a particular religion, to a country, is a fate you can escape, and not something you necessarily have to let yourself be swallowed by. To resist takes a radical decision: the visitor’s only chance to cast off the ballast he has piled onto himself is to leave the room.

Untitled, 1999–2000

Video installation
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

On two monitors a video is running showing people on a sofa who look like they’re watching television. But they are all the same person: the artist. From her cozy perch she watches herself and yet only mirrors her own image.

Nearest Exit, 2009

Wooden sign, neon tubes
177,8 x 35,6 x 7,6 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

The safety warning used in air traffic has been written by hand on a wooden signboard. The arrows point to the wall and thus pose the viewer with a conundrum, an ironic reference to there literally being no way out.

There is no border here, 2005–06

Wall drawing with adhesive tape strips
300 x 300 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

A dream-like scenario is described in poetic words. The form in which the poem is presented charges it with tension, suggesting the opposite of what the words tell us: the lines for example are made of yellow tape that, seen from up close, is printed with the message: “THERE IS NO BORDER HERE” The body of the poem is taped up in the shape of a flag, another ambivalent motif: on the one hand it is a symbol of freedom and independence, and on the other it refers to borders – national, religious or ideological.

Untitled, 2009

Belt, 1000 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

The belt of a watch officer, stretched to 10 meters, gets tangled up due to its excessive length.
With this absurd object, Gupta calls into question the functionality of the prevailing security systems, transforming the powerful symbol of order into an object of solely aesthetic interest.

Untitled, 2010

Interactive sound installation
Production: Norbert Math, Dietrich Killer, Norbert Schweizer
Courtesy OK Offenes Kulturhaus

This interactive sound installation, created especially for the show at OK, is brought to life by visitors with the help of headphones and finger sensors. When viewers touch the skin-colored surface, they hear the first instruction: “Mark here.” If they now begin to move their fingers along the body, they will hear text and sound fragments that come together to tell a story. The more viewers (max. 5) who interact with the globe, the more polyphonic the choir becomes.

There is No Explosive in This – Street Series, 2007

4 photos, 71 x 106.7 cm
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

This work is part of a series in which the artist illustrates the proliferating politics of fear. Each of the 100 bag covers, which she distributed in London, is screen-printed with the words There is No Explosive in This, an expression of the “irrational fear” that has taken hold of us. An important part of the work was collecting the reactions of passers-by, which is why Gupta asked those carrying the bags through the streets to report on their experiences.

Untitled (Heat Book), 2008–09

Steel, heating coil, 2,000 watts + lectern
132 x 44 x 33 cm
Courtesy Judko Rosenstock

A book lies open on a lectern. But is does not exactly invite us to browse through it: the book is made of steel and its pages are red-hot. An empty book? On which you can burn yourself? Which has been violated?
The sacred staging of the book in the room suggests that it might refer to the Gita, one of the central scriptures of Hinduism, or the Koran, the holy book of Islam, or perhaps the Bible.

Speaking Wall, 2009–10

Interactive sound installation with LCD monitor and headphones
Courtesy Yvon Lambert, Paris/New York

If you walk along the suggested brick wall, your path is blocked at the end by another wall. There, the viewer is asked via headphones and a display to follow various instructions. Speaking Wall is about ever-changing national borders, but also about the walls we build up around ourselves that we often fail to see.

Untitled, 2008–09

Display panel, 2161 x 22 x 25 cm
20-min loop
Courtesy Rami Farook

The 29 characters on the display change constantly, but not without a plan: numbers become years, distances and statistics on immigrants, including those whose lives are lost en route. The text is a programmed composition that was preceded by interviews Gupta conducted with the psychologist Mahazarin Banaji and the philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky about prejudices and fears, and the unconscious course they follow.

Untitled, 2009

Mobile iron lattice gate
290 x 232 cm
Courtesy Galleria Continua

A gate repeatedly bangs against the wall to which it’s attached, causing increasing damage. The outline of an irregularly shaped body is stuck between the bars. This body might be a concrete territory, or it could be a symbol of the human yearning for freedom that transcends all the boundaries surrounding it in the name of religion, gender or nation.

OK Square / Construction fence

There is No Border Here, 2005-06

Adhesive tape installation
Produced in Linz

“There is no border here,” the artist claims, even though it is plain to see that a construction fence is blocking OK Square. In this work various zones in public space are marked off, usually following a random and arbitrary logic. The irony of this gesture is reinforced by the material, which is normally used to create police barriers.


Shilpa Gupta (born 1976) lives and works in Mumbai, India where she studied sculpture at the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts from 1992 to 1997.
Gupta creates artwork using interactive video, websites, objects, photographs, sound and public performances to probe
and examine subversively such themes as desire, religion, notions of security on the street and on the imagined border.
In February 2010, she had her first museum solo at Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati. Followed by a solo show at
Castle Blandy in France and a mid career survey show at the OK Offenes Kulturhaus Oberösterreich.
Her project While I Sleep, where she worked alongside psychologist Mahazarin Banaji (Harvard professor) on the reception of images exploring fear and prejudice and interviewed Noam Chomsky, opened at Le Laboratoire in Paris in mid 2009, after which it travelled to the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark and the 4th Auckland Triennial in 2010.
In 2009, she had solo shows at Galerie Yvon Lambert in Paris, Galleria Continua, San Gimignano and at the public gallery “Lalit Kala Akademi” in New Delhi hosted by Vadehra Gallery. Previously she has shown at “The Generational: Younger Than Jesus”, the first Triennale of the New Museum, New York; “Everyday Miracles – Lyon Biennale 2009” curated by Hou Hanru; “Gwangju Biennale 08”, directed by Okwui Enwezor and curated by Ranjit Hoskote; “Yokohama Triennale 08” curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist; “3rd Seville Biennial” curated by Peter Weibel and Wonil Rhee; “Zones of Contact – Biennale of Sydney 06” curated by Charles Merewether and “Liverpool Biennale 06” curated by Gerardo Mosquera and has participated in Asian Art Triennales in Manchester and Fukuoka and Biennales in Linz, Seoul, Havana and Shanghai.
Her work has been shown in leading international institutions and museums such as the Tate Modern and Serpentine Gallery in London, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino, Daimler Chrysler Contemporary in Berlin, Mori Museum in Tokyo, Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art in Oslo, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New Museum and Queens Museum in New York, Chicago Cultural Center, Louisina Museum of Modern Art in Humlebæk and Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon amongst others.
Gupta has received the Transmediale 2004 Award, Berlin and the Sanskriti Prathishthan Award, New Delhi. Her work is in collections of Asia Society, Daimler Chrysler, Mori Museum, Fukuoka Museum, Hauser & Wirth, Kramlich Collection, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Caixa Foundation, Museum of Contemporary Art – Val De Marne, Astrup Fearnley Museum, Devi Foundation besides other public and private collections in India and abroad. In 2010, a 248 page monograph was released by Prestel Publishers and Vadehra Bookstore, with texts by Nancy Adajania, Peter Weibel, Shanay Jhaveri and Quddus Mirza.


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Alle images (except otherwise noted): Otto Saxinger