BAYIL.- YARAT Contemporary Art Space
announces a solo exhibition by internationally renowned Indian artist Shilpa Gupta, opening on 6th July 2018. The exhibition takes its departure point from the central piece: a new, large-scale multi-channel sound installation which gives voice to 100 poets who have been jailed over the centuries for their writing or political alignments. Exhibited alongside other new drawings and sculptures, the works highlight the fragility and vulnerability of our right to freedom of expression today.
Running across the entire first floor gallery space, 100 microphones are suspended above 100 metal rods, each piercing a page inscribed with a verse of poetry. In turn, a single microphone plays these verses, echoed by a chorus of the other 99. Lasting over an hour, the sound piece alternates between English, Spanish, Arabic, Russian, Azeri and Hindi, amongst other languages. A chorus of voices shift across the space, forming an ongoing sequence of haunting recitals. The title of the installation, For, in your tongue I cannot fit - 100 Jailed Poets, is based on a poem by the Azerbaijani poet Nesimi, whose work spans the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
Alongside this major new work are a series of drawings and objects which reflect upon the lives of the poets, including a mouth cast in metal, a drawing made with thorns and tracings on paper around the body of the missing person. Telling stories of deep conflict and endearment, the works explore the political and societal restrictions which seek to control and clamp both the imagination and the physical mobility of the poets.
A motion flapboard, typically found in transit zones and transport hubs to communicate timings and schedules, hangs from the ceiling. Subverting its intended function, Gupta replaces informational text with poetry which describes processes of arrival and departure, and the movement of people and ideas. As the split-flap display rotates, new words and prose appear, offering poignant and timely reflections which in turn lead us to question how we define identity through place and time.
For this exhibition, the artist revisits her photographic series, Dont See Dont Hear Dont Speak (2006) to create a sculpture in which three identical people encircle one another, each concealing the others eyes, ears or mouth. Based on a Japanese proverb made popular by Mahatma Gandhi, the work sits within the context of our current changing political landscape and recent wave of separatism a present force in the artists own home country, where agencies are often suppressed for their views. Creating a potent dialogue with the other pieces in the exhibition, Guptas sculpture offers a powerful reflection on freedom of expression. The artist continues: Time and again, like where we are at today, voices of truth cause discomfort and stand truncated, however the resonances stay and they continue to be heard.
Guptas sound installation is a joint commission by YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Baku and Edinburgh Art Festival.