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Not another brick in the wall

When we visit the Chemould and Prescott Road gallery, Shilpa Gupta, a petite and diminutive woman in her mid-30s, is chatting with a group of college-goers in the adjoining Jnanapravaha. They had come to attend a lecture by Gupta, and stayed back to chat with her about her show that recently opened at the gallery.

Titled Someone Else, the show is a curious one. For, a layperson may marvel at the mighty audio installation of microphones attached together and hung from the ceiling chanting away in the background (Singing Cloud), or sit transfixed before the flapboard -- the sort that announce arrivals and departures at airports -- and read reforming words on race, religion, death and equality, but miss the point. Or, stand before the library of 100 book covers of titles that were written by authors under pseudonyms -- Gupta has astonishingly, managed to find and inscribe why they wrote under false names on each steel plate cover -- and still not really get what the artist's on about.


Shilpa Gupta's giveaway art includes soap bricks embedded with the
word 'Threat'. The idea, says the artist, is to constantly challenge the
notion of what constitutes art. pic/Datta Kumbhar


Then, invited to pick up a brick from an installation titled Threat -- hundreds of soap bricks with the word 'Threat' embedded in them -- the penny drops.

Gupta's oeuvre has involved giveaway art, and through it, the artist has challenged notions of what makes art, art. Does its presence in a gallery certify it as art? Does its ironic and self-referential attitude guarantee it a space in the art hall of fame? Does an author's irreverent challenge -- a ball of thread encased in a glass box, or perhaps, a bar of soap that a viewer can take home from a gallery -- enhance the value of an artwork, even as it democratises it? And, most significantly, what, at the end of the day, does a viewer feel owning a Shilpa Gupta?

For Gupta, another set of questions come into play with this installation. "The bricks also form a wall, a thing that separates our identity from the other's. At the same time, outside this gallery, this brick will take on a different meaning -- some may use it to wash clothes. I'm not the sole author of its meaning."

At:  Someone Else, Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, Fort
ill: February 16, 11 am to 7 pm, Monday to Saturday

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