For its 34th Curve commission (2021), the Barbican presents the first major London solo exhibition by the Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta (b.1976), whose celebrated practice poetically explores physical and ideological boundaries and how, as individuals, we come to feel a sense of isolation or belonging.
Gupta presents and builds on her acclaimed project For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit (2017–18), an experiential sound installation thatcomprises 100 microphones suspended above 100 metal spikes, each piercing a page inscribed with a fragmented verse of poetry by a writer who has been imprisoned for their work, writings or beliefs. Spanning global histories from the eighth to the twenty-first centuries, the soundscape alternates between languages (English, Hindi, Spanish, Arabic, Azeri and Chinese, among others), each microphone uttering verses of poetry, echoed by its 99 counterparts. Giving a voice to those who have been silenced,
Gupta’s haunting installation highlights the fragility of personal expression while raising urgent questions of censorship, confinement and resistance. Alongside the installation, Gupta also presents drawings and sculptures that reflect on the fragility of one’s right to free expression while invoking notions of confinement, which have been heighted by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Theseinclude the artist’s first pair of motion flapboards, found traditionally in airports or train stations. Rather than announcing expected departure or arrival times, the boards’ original function is disrupted so that they enter an uneasy dialogue with one another.
Richly illustrated, this publication features new installation photography and images of past works, a newlycommissioned essay by the feminist writer, publisher andactivist Urvashi Butalia, and an interview with Gupta by exhibition curator Hilary Floe. It also includes a loose-insert postcard featuring a poem in Urdu and English by the revolutionary Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz.