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Post-Grad Community Mixer: Shilpa Gupta at the Barbican Centre

  • Written byPost-Grad Community
  • Published date24 November 2021

Shilpa Gupta at the Barbican Centre by Hayley Caine, MA Material Futures, Central Saint Martins, and Post-Grad Community Ambassador

The Barbican was the setting of the recent instalment of the Post-Grad Mixer events, where 15 students from varied disciplines and Colleges had the pleasure of seeing Mumbai-based artist, Shilpa Gupta’s first London solo exhibition, ‘Sun at Night.’

Over the course of an hour, Chris Bayley, the exhibition’s Assistant Curator, engaged and discussed the core themes underpinning this version of Gupta’s practice in action: censorship, confinement and resistance.

Students listening to a curator
Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night

Gupta presents a new body of work extending on the research and themes present in the climax of the show “For, in Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit.” This includes the artist’s first pair of motion clap boards, used historically as departure boards within train stations and airports, they play with “typographic oddities” and “further expand on her use of sound, language and the power of speech.” The clattering flap boards evoke the sound of rainfall, communicating in an uneasy poetic dialogue, it’s as if ‘the diptychs are speaking to each other”.

Artwork by Shilpa Gupta on a wall
Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night

Poet and Human Rights activist Irina Ratushinskaya whose poetry got her sentenced to 7 years in a Soviet hard labour camp in 1983 are pinned to the wall. At the bottom of her haunting typed message, “and I’ll press my trembling hands to the hole that was my heart…” Gupta explains how the message managed to get out of the camp: “Scratched on soap, memorised, washed away. Then written on cigarette papers, smuggled outside the prison.”

Students looking at a sculpture
Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night

As you journey through the show space and enter the final room, the dimly lit immersive installation called “For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit,” asks you to pause. Slow down. A soundscape plays comprising of 100 microphones suspended above 100 metal spikes. Each piercing has a page inscribed with a fragmented verse of poetry by contemporary and past poets (as far as the 8th century), who experienced incarceration for their work, writings, and/or beliefs.

Students listening to a curator
Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night

State power always fears the artist, writer, and poet. A chorus of poems from dissidents and the brutalised, are echoed across the space in solidarity by 99 other counterparts whispering, singing, chanting. It's haunting stuff.

Gupta’s installation highlights the vulnerability of one’s right to personal free expression and through her work she gives a voice to those who have been silenced. Shilpa had told the curator to “always listen out for the silences” as the people that speak the loudest are heard… but what about the people that are silent?

Students listening to a curator
Shilpa Gupta: Sun at Night

Shilpa Gupta’s exhibition opened in The Curve on Thursday 7 October 2021 and continued until Sunday 6 February 2022.

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