Arts Curriculum

Shilpa Gupta

Shilpa Gupta

1:14.9, 2011–12. Hand-wound polyester thread and wood vitrine with engraved brass plaque and glass, 158 x 56 x 51 cm. 1/2 AP, edition of 3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund © Shilpa Gupta. Photo courtesy the artist

The end of British rule in India on August 17, 1947, saw the creation of the Radcliffe Line, a boundary between India and the newly created Pakistan that represented an attempt to divide a 175,000-square-mile territory populated by 88 million people. Pakistan was to become a Muslim homeland, while the new India would become a secular state with a Hindu majority. In response, 14 million people left their homes to seek refuge with their own kind. Many were slaughtered by the opposing side, some starved or died of exhaustion, and others were afflicted by those diseases typically suffered by undernourished refugees. An estimated one million people perished.

Since their independence was established, the two countries have fought three major wars and one undeclared war, and have been involved in numerous skirmishes and standoffs. In an effort to curb terrorism, illegal migration, smuggling, trespassing, cattle-lifting, trafficking of drugs and arms, and other such activities, many miles of fencing and floodlighting have been installed along the Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Pakistan boundaries. In 2011, theEconomist dubbed the latter “The World’s Most Dangerous Border.”

Artist Shilpa Gupta (b.1976), who lives and works in Mumbai, India, asks: “Can you imagine fencing a border?” In response to her country’s tense political situation, she has made a handwoven ball of thread encased in a vitrine. The work addresses threat, fear, and religious prejudice via an elegant, poetic sculptural form. As updated in 2007, the Indo-Pakistan border is 1188.5 miles long. Alluding to this vast distance through the application of a 14.9-to-1 ratio, Gupta has wound eighty miles of thread into an egg-shaped ball. This inert mass stands in contrast to the volatile border itself.

Shilpa Gupta

1:14.9, 2011–12. Hand-wound polyester thread and wood vitrine with engraved brass plaque and glass, 158 x 56 x 51 cm. 1/2 AP, edition of 3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund © Shilpa Gupta. Photo courtesy the artist

Shilpa Gupta

1:14.9 (detail), 2011–12. Hand-wound polyester thread and wood vitrine with engraved brass plaque and glass, 158 x 56 x 51 cm. 1/2 AP, edition of 3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund © Shilpa Gupta. Photo courtesy the artist

 

Show: 1:14.9

  • Without revealing the artist’s motivation, tell students the title of the work and ask them to discuss what they see.
  • What questions do they have about the work? Brainstorm a list of questions generated by students. What information do they feel they need to know in order to appreciate and understand the work?
  • Share with students the artist’s motivation, either by reading or distributing copies of the text above. How does knowing the artist’s motivation change the perception of the work?
  • According to Gupta, her process is fragile. “I think of it as creating pathways to the viewer,” she writes. “The viewer may choose to walk along the path. I would like for the viewer to absorb it and then leave it open-ended. It is almost not possible for anything to have identical meaning. I would not ask for it. But what is possible is some amount of overlap in emotion.” What meaning and emotional response(s) do you think Gupta is hoping to elicit? Do you think she has been successful?
1:14.9, 2011–12. Hand-wound polyester thread and wood vitrine with engraved brass plaque and glass, 158 x 56 x 51 cm. 1/2 AP, edition of 3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund © Shilpa Gupta. Photo courtesy the artist
1:14.9 (detail), 2011–12. Hand-wound polyester thread and wood vitrine with engraved brass plaque and glass, 158 x 56 x 51 cm. 1/2 AP, edition of 3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund © Shilpa Gupta. Photo courtesy the artist


  • Since the dawn of human civilization, people have felt a fundamental need to divide the world into territories. The original divisions were often based on the availability of agricultural land, or the influence of a group over the surrounding area.

    Some borders, such as interstate borders, are open and unguarded. Others are partially or fully controlled, and may be crossed legally only at designated checkpoints. Borders can be an issue of national importance, driving citizens and their governments to anger and even war. The need for new resources such as food, water, and oil to support a growing population often tests the strength of claims and boundaries.

    Invite students to describe what geographic borders they have seen. For example, how is the entrance to your town or city marked? What about borders between counties and states? Have students discuss why borders have developed and what factors determine whether they are peaceful or contentious.
    Social Studies
  • Metaphors are most frequently encountered as literary figures of speech in which one word is used in place of another to suggest a likeness between them. Gupta provides us with a visual metaphor by asserting a comparison between the heavily reinforced Indo-Pakistani border and a ball of thread. Metaphor provides a means by which we can connect together objects and events that appear to be disparate and unconnected to elicit a poetic effect.

    Think about an issue that is important to you. First, consider all the usual ways you might call attention to this issue, such as making a poster, writing an article, or joining a like-minded group. Then consider ways that you might call attention to your issue metaphorically. What are the essential qualities of the issue that you want to convey? Is there a way in which you might create an object that expresses some of these qualities through metaphor?
  • To get a better understanding of the border dispute that Gupta refers to, this interactive map allows you to view the various territorial claims from each country’s perspective. Go to economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/indian_pakistani_and_chinese_border_disputes
    Social Studies

2009-07-15-15-00-47
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