Shilpa Gupta: Identity as Shared Day-to-Day Life Practice

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Christine Vial Kayser, Histoire Culturelle et Sociale de l'Art, Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, France


    Shilpa Gupta ( b. 1976) is a contemporary Indian artist living in Mumbai. She works in installations that mix a strong conceptual frame with sensory, mnemotic and bodily elements. A large majority of her works is related to the relationship with the other, and Pakistan is one of her implied, or explicit “other”. The reason is that she says her childhood has been marked by riots and intercommunity violence. Her work is somehow dedicated to mending this gap of understanding the other. In this regard she has developped a body of works related to the frontier with Pakistan, its no man’s land as she tries to metaphorically recall or manifest the pulsation of life in this no man’s land, either through works related to cows grazing in this unclaimed territories or performances of embroidering erraticaly a band of fabric evoking the frontier, in a gesture that attempts to metaphorically rewrite the so-called Radcliffe line, the frontier hastily designed by the British Raj to separate the two countries in 1947. She has also made a project related to unclaimed graves alongside the frontier. Significantly this work is exhibited at present in Venice together with that of the Pakistani artist Rashid Rana, in an attempts, financed by a Pakistani private foundation, to symbollically reestablish a dialogue between the two entities. In doing so Gupta is making a statement regarding Indian and Pakistani’s identity, referring to a common identity, prior to the Independence, based on the territory, and human presence on the land, trying to overcome a narrow definition of identity based on religion, which is the prevalent definition at present in Pakistan and is becoming more prevalent in India under the spell of the Hindu party. These trends that attempts to assert religion as an essential component of people identities is a passport for confrontation between the communities. Instead she is proposing that collective identities are based on practices of living, of growing food, and of dying, and related to ties with one’s neighbors as carers of pasture, of land, of graves.