In­dia & Pa­kis­tan Shilpa Gup­ta & Ra­shid Rana

Shilpa Gup­ta and Ra­shid Rana

L'officiel Art - - Sommaire - An in­ter­view by William Mas­sey

For the ve­ry first time in the his­to­ry of the Ve­nice Bien­nale, the South Asian na­tion-states of In­dia and Pa­kis­tan are uni­ted in the same ex­hi­bi­tion. For L’Of­fi­ciel Art Shilpa Gup­ta (1976, Mum­bai) and Ra­shid Rana (1968, Lahore) dis­cuss their de­sire to re­po­si­tion the com­plex cli­mate of his­to­ri­cal re­la­tions bet­ween their two coun­tries and draw a sha­red cul­tu­ral car­to­gra­phy.

L’OF­FI­CIEL ART / The col­la­te­ral event “My East is Your West” is the ve­ry first time In­dia and Pa­kis­tan are uni­ted in the same ex­hi­bi­tion in the con­text of the Ve­nice Bien­nale. What was the ge­ne­sis of the project and what was the role of the Gu­j­ral Foun­da­tion (a non­pro­fit trust de­di­ca­ted to sup­por­ting contem­po­ra­ry cul­tu­ral en­ga­ge­ments) in brin­ging you to­ge­ther for this event? SHILPA GUP­TA / While the po­li­ti­cal space bet­ween In­dia and Pa­kis­tan has conti­nued to stay tense over the years, so­me­how the people-to-people con­tact has been warm, es­pe­cial­ly in the world of art, with ar­tists from Lahore and Ka­ra­chi, who are part of the art scene in New Del­hi, Mum­bai and Ban­ga­lore. There is a lo­ve­ly sto­ry of how Fe­roze Gu­j­ral (co-foun­der of the Foun­da­tion) and Ra­shid Rana met in Ve­nice du­ring the last bien­nale, which is best heard from them… RA­SHID RANA / Well, Fe­roze and I met at the last Ve­nice Bien­nale and we were both sul­king over the fact that In­dia and Pa­kis­tan did not have a pa­vi­lion. We wi­sh­ful­ly came up with the idea of a re­gio­nal pa­vi­lion and Fe­roze went ahead and ac­tual­ly made it hap­pen. So, the Gu­j­ral Foun­da­tion had a tru­ly vi­sio­na­ry role here. No­ta­bly though, while In­dia and Pa­kis­tan fea­ture in the pa­vi­lion, we are not looking at it as a joint col­la­bo­ra­tion by just these two na­tions. Ra­ther, it is a pa­vi­lion from the sub­con­ti­nent that fea­tures In­dia and Pa­kis­tan. This is an im­por­tant dis­tinc­tion to draw as there is a risk that the conver­sa­tion around the ex­hi­bi­tion will cast In­dia and Pa­kis­tan in a false po­lar bi­na­ry that en­trenches the ill-as­su­med ste­reo­type as arch-ri­vals even fur­ther. The title of the ex­hi­bi­tion “My East is Your West” was ta­ken from a light work from Shilpa Gup­ta. This title ques­tions bor­ders and na­tio­nal be­lon­ging as well as ope­ning pers­pec­tives on a new cul­tu­ral car­to­gra­phy. How did you work to­ge­ther and how will the ex­hi­bi­tion re­flect the spi­rit of col­la­bo­ra­tion that ani­mates you both? SG / Since it is not so ea­sy to meet, our conver­sa­tions have had to be by e-mail main­ly. We star­ted by dis­cus­sing our over­lap­ping in­ter­est and prac­tice over the years and then de­ci­ded to work on our own pro­jects, which will be shown along­side each other ra­ther than ha­ving any over-ar­ching theme. RR / The title is an as­tute reflection of the kind of ideas Shilpa and I are in­ter­es­ted in: geography, his­to­ry, au­tho­ri­ty and their in­ter­sec­tions with the project of iden­ti­ty-ma­king. The ex­hi­bi­tion will ho­pe­ful­ly come to­ge­ther in a way that our works re­tain their au­to­no­my and yet con­verse in subtle and sur­pri­sing ways.

Could you tell us more about the works that will be dis­played in the ex­hi­bi­tion? SG / I think it’s in­ter­es­ting to think about the con­text of the ex­hi­bi­tion: the 16th Cen­tu­ry Pa­laz­zo Ben­zon by the wa­ters of the Grand Ca­nal, a re­min­der of the time when ships sai­led out, when large por­tions of land were clai­med, lea­ding to new de­fi­ni­tions of the na­tions­tate co­ming in­to being. Al­though I can’t un­veil too much of the ex­hi­bi­tion yet, I can tell you that vi­si­tors will see small ob­jects res­ting in cases, and prints on the walls un­fol­ding the ten­sion bet­ween in­di­vi­duals be­co­ming ci­ti­zens and the sur­roun­ding na­tions. RR / I can­not di­vulge the de­tails at present but as a lit­tle in­tro, my work is ba­sed on a ne­go­tia­tion bet­ween ac­tual and re­mote modes of being. The for­mer is know­ledge amas­sed di­rect­ly through sen­so­ry ex­pe­rience while the lat­ter is in­di­rect ways of kno­wing, which may be as di­verse as a Me­die­val pain­ting, a mi­nia­ture from a Mu­ghal court and a sit­com on te­le­vi­sion. I do not dis­cri­mi­nate bet­ween them and be­lieve an ar­tist can lay claim to all. Using this fra­me­work, my project will use im­mer­sive set­tings that raise cri­ti­cal ques­tions about (dis) lo­ca­tion and the li­qui­da­tion of li­near chro­no­lo­gy.

There is an in­ter­es­ting echo bet­ween “My East is Your West” and what Ok­wui En­we­zor said about what he is ai­ming at doing in the Giar­di­ni: “The Bien­nale Arte 2015, re­turns to the an­cient ground of this ideal to ex­plore the changes in the glo­bal en­vi­ron­ment, to read the Giar­di­ni with its ram­sha­ckle as­sem­blage of pa­vi­lions as the ul­ti­mate site of a di­sor­de­red world, of na­tio­nal conflicts, as well as ter­ri­to­rial and geo­po­li­ti­cal dis­fi­gu­ra­tions.” Do you feel close to this vi­sion? Would you say that your ex­hi­bi­tion is a kind of ma­ni­fes­to of post-na­tio­na­li­ty? SG / It’s not that we can at this stage choose to have bor­ders or not. What is im­por­tant is that the bor­ders which have been drawn should not over em­pha­si­zed. South Asia has been carved out through a ra­ther pain­ful – even bru­tal – pro­cess of par­ti­tion and large-scale mi­gra­tion of people. We are close to com­ple­ting se­ven de­cades and the region conti­nues to re­main tense. Ma­ny people sleep hun­gry here and we need to

“The pa­vi­lion is from the sub­con­ti­nent ra­ther than from a spe­ci­fic na­tion-state and that ve­ry act at an event that is high­ly – even when in­di­rect­ly – in­ves­ted in the idea of na­tion-states is a sub­ver­sive ges­ture.” RR

LEFT: SHILPA GUP­TA, 24:00:01, 2012, MO­TION FLAPBOARD, 177 X 25 X 28 CM. ABOVE: SHILPA GUP­TA, TH­REAT, 2008-09, BATHING SOAP, 15 X 6.2X4 CM EACH SOAP, 72 X 229 X 107 CM STACK.




ad­dress pres­sing so­cial chal­lenges ra­ther than arm our­selves with nu­clear wea­pons and spend hea­vi­ly on de­fence in the name of pro­tec­ting our­selves from our neigh­bours. It is pos­sible to draw bor­ders on a piece of pa­per, but let ima­gi­na­tion fly across them. Wouldn’t that be a real ce­le­bra­tion of hu­man ca­pa­bi­li­ty! RR / I am not cer­tain that this vi­sion asks first for par­ti­ci­pa­tion in the idea of na­tion-states and then in an au­to­ma­tic cri­tique of this idea. Per­so­nal­ly, I do not think I am re­pre­sen­ting Pa­kis­tan at all. I can­not pos­si­bly sum up the en­ti­re­ty of ex­pe­riences in the coun­try and I am not sure if being a Pa­kis­ta­ni is cen­tral to my iden­ti­ty or au­to­ma­ti­cal­ly re­le­vant to my work. Mo­reo­ver, the pa­vi­lion is from the sub­con­ti­nent ra­ther than from a spe­ci­fic na­tion-state and that ve­ry act at an event that is high­ly – even when in­di­rect­ly – in­ves­ted in the idea of na­tion-states is a sub­ver­sive ges­ture. I think what I’m es­sen­tial­ly get­ting at is the pos­si­bi­li­ty of a non-de­fi­ni­tion of na­tio­na­li­ty ra­ther than a de­mons­tra­tion of post-na­tio­na­li­ty. I do be­lieve that geography has a re­la­tion­ship, ho­we­ver fraught, with be­lon­ging. Lahore, being ex­pe­rien­tial­ly ac­ces­sible to me, will na­tu­ral­ly ma­ni­fest it­self in my work. Ho­we­ver, I am un­com­for­table with a di­dac­tic no­tion of this geography, with state-au­tho­ri­ty co­axing in­di­vi­dual iden­ti­ty.

Was there any reac­tion in your res­pec­tive coun­tries to your ex­hi­bi­ting to­ge­ther? SG / Wi­thin the art world, there has been great ex­ci­te­ment and the project is being ce­le­bra­ted. RR / We have been ve­ry careful to prevent first­ly the cas­ting of Shilpa and my­self as ab­so­lute re­pre­sen­ta­tives of each coun­try and se­cond­ly in the fra­ming of the ex­hi­bi­tion as a ’joint’ ef­fort by In­dia and Pa­kis­tan. Col­la­bo­ra­tion, of course, is wel­come and au­diences in Pa­kis­tan and In­dia are both ex­ci­ted to have a part at the Ve­nice Bien­nale, par­ti­cu­lar­ly as one fea­ture in my work may use Lahore as its lo­ca­tion.

How do you react to this ex­cerpt from The Bal­lad of East and West by Ru­dyard Ki­pling (1889) in the light of your own per­so­nal sto­ries? “OH, East is East, and West is West, and ne­ver the twain shall meet, Till Earth and Sky stand pre­sent­ly at God’s great Judg­ment Seat; But there is nei­ther East nor West, Bor­der, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!” RR / I do think that in­di­vi­duals can sub­vert no­tions of iden­ti­ty and ’the other’ as han­ded down to them by in­vi­sible au­tho­ri­ties. Be­lon­ging is more com­pli­ca­ted than sin­gu­lar geography. Ho­we­ver, I dis­miss sim­ply the ’strong men’ bit as a pre­re­qui­site of this chal­lenge. Si­mi­lar­ly, the no­tion of east and west being in­trin­si­cal­ly and in­de­pen­dent­ly East and West is pro­ble­ma­tic. I think that Shilpa’s line ve­ry cle­ver­ly draws at­ten­tion to the fact that the East or West ques­tion is of­ten just a mea­nin­gless tau­to­lo­gy. SG / Yes, in­deed! Let me quote Spea­king Wall an in­ter­ac­tive sound art­work that I did in 2010: Is the place you come from The place you were born Or the place you grew up Or the place you in­ha­bit Vir­tual­ly Men­tal­ly Phi­lo­so­phi­cal­ly Phy­si­cal­ly. “My East is Your West”, Ra­shid Rana and Shilpa Gup­ta Concept and Com­mis­sio­ner: Fe­roze Gu­j­ral, Foun­der/Di­rec­tor, The Gu­j­ral Foun­da­tion Cu­ra­to­rial Ad­vi­sor and Pu­blic Pro­grammes Cu­ra­tor: Na­ta­sha Gin­wa­la Ita­lian Part­ner Foun­da­tion: Fon­da­zione An­to­nio Maz­zot­ta 9 May – 31 Oc­to­ber Pa­laz­zo Ben­zon San Mar­co 3917, Ve­nice


The Gu­j­ral Foun­da­tion was foun­ded in 2008 by Mo­hit and Fe­roze Gu­j­ral, son and daugh­ter-in-law of renowned In­dian Mo­der­nist ar­tist, Sa­tish Gu­j­ral. The foun­da­tion is a non-pro­fit trust de­di­ca­ted to sup­por­ting contem­po­ra­ry cul­tu­ral en­ga­ge­ments wi­thin the realms of art, de­si­gn and cul­ture in the In­dian sub­con­ti­nent. Fe­roze Gu­j­ral, phi­lan­thro­pist and en­tre­pre­neur, al­so foun­ded Out­set In­dia in 2011, a phi­lan­thro­pic or­ga­ni­sa­tion which pro­vides a plat­form for contem­po­ra­ry art in In­dia, and for In­dian ar­tists abroad. Among­st other pro­jects, The Gu­j­ral Foun­da­tion has ar­ran­ged the loan of “As­pin­wall”, the primary lo­ca­tion of the Ko­chi Mu­zi­ris Bien­nale 2012 and 2014 and has sup­por­ted the 55th Ve­nice Bien­nale, South Asian ar­tists at the 8th Ber­lin Bien­nale and the Gug­gen­heim Mu­seum, New York ex­hi­bi­tion, V. S. Gai­tonde: Pain­ting as Pro­cess, Pain­ting as Life (2014). For the past three years The Gu­j­ral Foun­da­tion has fos­te­red a range of pro­jects stea­di­ly ex­pan­ding its reach with the world of contem­po­ra­ry art and is com­mit­ted to buil­ding in­fra­struc­tures that sus­tain cul­tu­ral free­dom, so­cial en­ga­ge­ment and the ar­tis­tic ima­gi­na­tion.­j­ral­foun­da­

“The title of the ex­hi­bi­tion ve­ry cle­ver­ly draws at­ten­tion to the fact that the East or West ques­tion is of­ten just a mea­nin­gless tau­to­lo­gy.” RR

RA­SHID RANA, WAR WI­THIN I (detail), 2013, 600 x 240 cm (in two parts) edi­tion of 5 C Print + Dia­sec.

Newspapers in French

Newspapers from France

© PressReader. All rights reserved.