Someone Else: Shilpa Gupta

21 January - 16 February 2012

Masquerading as seven different avatars decked out in camouflage, or identifying with Kashmiri women whose husbands have gone missing, the performing of other selves has been a consistent stratagem in Shilpa Guptas practice. However, with Someone Else (2011) Gupta expands her purview. She is not assuming other identities, but attempts to lay bare in some part a real history of persons who have had to consciously stage another self by cloaking themselves under the cover of a pseudonym.

The work, itself is built up of a 100 books, each fabricated out of stainless steel, some of which are exact scaled replicas of first editions. Hollowed out of their content, the original covers meticulously reproduced, only with a slight intervention. Each stamped, in generic font with the reason given in retrospect by the author why he or she chose to take the refuge of a false identity. What are amassed are a hundred confessions, everyone guided by a certain fear – of judgment, of persecution, of marginalization, of failure, of greater success. Admissions come from across centuries, geographies and genders, causing the production of an extemporized community of individuals. All have had to transact with the world through subterfuge, their selves moving in and through differing circumstances, independently and alone. Now, assembled together, this chorus of voices lays bare the overwhelming force exerted by established codes of convention and intention, and the inherent struggle in endeavoring to resist these dictums.


How attentive are we to such or any refrain? Are we observing the exasperating singular rallies that are being had against suppressive prescriptive measures, such as those witnessed in the diasec photographic prints Untitled (2011), that appear to be exhausting and never –ending? Are we walking along the straight and narrow and listening to the Speaking Wall (2009-2010)? Singing Cloud’s (2008-2009) 4000 microphones are whispering, singing, speaking “I want to fly away high above in the sky”. Reversed they are carrying voices to us, and are we listening to them? Is anyone attending to them? Are these expressions lost to us amidst the cacophony of a ruling regime?

As we sit and behold the flapboard in Untitled (2008-2009), words and phrases are constantly falling back on themselves, in an associative pattern. Incisive groupings emerge marking arrivals and departures, numbers become years, distances and tallies of people migrating and those lost in such movement. An effected rhythm is established as each (un)real phrase melts away into the next, conjuring up the tangible sensations of dissonance and dislocation. However, when a grouping ends and the following battery is about to set off, a brief punctuation in the rotary waves of words, letters and numbers is experienced. It is an unexpected occasion of complete suspension. This pause, in which there is an absence of any activity, is a moment of reprieve. We are given an instant without any directional prescriptions, a momentary disengagement, when we must take pause, and look around.

Installation Views