MAC/VAL

MAC/VAL is opened every day of the week, except on mondays:
tuesday to friday, 10 h to 18 h
week-ends and holidays, 12 h to 19 h.

Closed on january 1st, may 1st and december 25th.

phone: 01 43 91 64 20
fax: 01 79 86 16 57

Access map

Place de la Libération
94400 Vitry-sur-Seine

  023/023

Shilpa Gupta

Notice

Shilpa Gupta trained as a sculptor in
Bombay (as the city was then called)
between 1992 and 1997 and has been
exhibiting regularly in India since 1996,
and in various international shows since
2001. During her two-and-a-half month
residency at the MAC/VAL between July and
October 2007, she produced three works:
the third version of Shadow, Memory and
Don’t worry, you too will be a star.
Shilpa Gupta explores the potential of new
technologies and creates websites, touch
screens and interactive projections, all
means of communication that have now become
familiar and used on a daily basis.
Visitors are invited to experiment with
and question racial violence and organ
trafficking in Blame (2002–2004), and
the death of loved ones in armed conflicts
in Sans titre (Demi-veuves) [Untitled
(Half-widows)] (2006), pieces shown at
‘Lille 3000’ in 2006.
In the ‘Shadow’ series, the shadows of
viewers, caught by the camera, encounter
projected shadows on the white screen;
these latter, shadows of objects and dolls,
as if dropping out of the sky, are stopped
by the visitors’ shadows. The first version
of Shadow (2006), created for the Halle art
centre, mingles spectators’ shadows with
those of other figures walking, dancing, and
jumping, while in the second version
(2006), made for the Liverpool Biennial, it
is shadows and houses and bird silhouettes
that seem to be falling and crossing space
before becoming attached to visitors’
shadows. In this third version, the objects
are not clearly identifiable because the
changes of scale give free rein to the
imagination. This interactive video game
involves spectators both individually –
causing them to move about both in space –
and collectively, allowing them to swap
between themselves the objects that are
clinging to their shadows. At the end of
the cycle, the shadow theatre makes the
visitors vanish, drowned in a sea of
objects. To produce these interactive
installations, Shilpa Gupta enlisted the
help of a computer programmer and a sound
designer. Her work is a team effort, just
as the making of any film is.
In a more playful vein, Shilpa Gupta
developed a metaphor around memory and
body, with falling objects symbolising an
irreversible past that ‘clings to the
skin’, as suggested by the sound and the
words uttered at the end of each cycle:
‘His dead, our dead, your dead, our dead,
her dead,
Is the land not well marked?
Is the sky not able to hide and drink it?’
The artist’s idea is more serious than
might appear at first glance. Playing on the
fascination for appearances and technology,
she rails against the paradoxes of our
societies. How do we react, when we look at
the images? How does media propaganda
modify the way we behave?
Memory tackles once again the issue of the
past, with the letters of the work ‘memory’
cut out of the museum walls: as if drilled
into the concrete wall, the work both
permits us to perceive the exterior of the
building through the slits of the letters
and lets in the light of the sun’s rays,
which vary according to the time of day.
These graphic shafts move imperceptibly,
taking on a different form and intensity,
depending on seasonal and climatic
variations, and even the time spent on a
museum visit. This highly poetic work also
refers to memory and our recollection of the
building itself. Visible from outside and
inside alike, it plays with transparency,
solids and voids, and fleeting memories that
we may retain from previous visits,
opaqueness and instantaneity of memory.
Don’t worry, you too will be a star is a
slogan in fairy lights. It heckles visitors
and refers them to their desire for
celebrity, questioning the usually
outstanding, ‘unattainable’ character of
the star. Excessive media exposure leads to
a loss of aura for stars, while at the same
time offering everyone the chance to attain
this status. While looking as if she is
reassuring viewers, Shilpa Gupta also warns
them about our fascination with fame and
its vacuity. What are we to do about the
deceptive lure of celebrity, about
banality, and how are to ‘come to terms’
with our history and our past. How are
we to live?
Shilpa Gupta’s oeuvre is many facetted,
but these three very different pieces all
explore memory, resorting to the use of
light, natural and artificial alike, with
a mastery of new technologies that makes
it possible to catch the viewer’s attention
while questioning him or her about
individual and collective issues.

V.L.