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b. 1976, Mumbai
Shilpa Gupta was born in Mumbai in 1976. She received a BFA in sculpture from the Sir J. J. School of Fine Arts, Mumbai, in 1997. Gupta is interested in perception, and in the ways in which we transmit and understand information. Her mediums range from manipulated found objects to video, interactive computer-based installation, and performance. Her work often engages with television and its constant flow of meaning. Shifting the primary status of art from object-based commodity to participatory experience, Gupta creates situations that actively involve the viewer.
Gupta is drawn to how objects, places, people, and experiences are defined, and asks how these definitions are played out through the processes of classification, restriction, censorship, and security. Her work communicates—across cultures—the impact of dominant forces acting on local and national communities, prompting a reevaluation of social identity and status. There is no explosive here (2007), a communal experiment in fear, encourages the viewer to exit the gallery carrying a bag imprinted with the statement “there is no explosive here.” The dynamic between object, carrier, and public challenges stereotypical anxieties about safety in a public context. Also driven by audience participation is Threat (2009), a wall made of bars of soap that mimic the appearance of bricks and are imprinted with the single word of the title. Each viewer is invited to take a bar home so that the wall slowly disappears and, as each bar is used, the embossed “threat” is neutralized and eventually erased. In Speaking Wall (2010), the gallery visitor wears headphones while standing on a narrow row of bricks that abuts one wall. A recorded voice directs the actions of the viewer/listener, whose role shifts to that of participant, while discussing the redrawing of borders and the arbitrary nature of identity. Again, Gupta questions the concretization of imagined demarcations and divisions.
In 2011, Gupta was the recipient of the Bienal Award, Bienal De Cuenca, Ecuador; in 2004 she was the recipient of the Transmediale Award, Berlin, and the Sanskriti Prathisthan Award, New Delhi. She was also named International Artist of the Year by the South Asian Visual Artists Collective, Canada. She has been the subject of solo presentations at international institutions including Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2010); Arnolfini, Bristol (2012); and Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem, Netherlands (2012). A 10-year survey of her work, Half A Sky, was presented at the OK Center for Contemporary Art, Linz, Austria (2010). Her work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions: Ideas and Images, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai (2000); Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis, Tate Modern, London (2001); Edge of Desire, Asia Society and Queens Museum, New York (2005); The World Is Yours, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk (2009); Younger Than Jesus, New Museum Triennial, New York (2009); Paris-Delhi-Bombay, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2011); and Descriptive Acts, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2012). Gupta lives and works in Mumbai.