For over two decades now, Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta has been visiting the borderland between India and Bangladesh to record clandestine movement and activities in the region. While she presented her findings at the 2015 Venice Biennale, this year she is travelling across the globe with “Drawing in the Dark”, another set of work based on her ongoing research. After travelling to Belgium and Germany, the exhibition will open at the La Synagogue de Delme contemporary art center in Delme, France, in October. Invited to speak at the Edinburgh Art Festival in July, her work WheredoIendandyoubegin also lends its title to the ongoing Goteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art in Sweden. The JJ School of Art alumnus talks about border politics, illicit trade and revisiting the Indo-Bangladesh border.
In the last couple of years you have returned to the Indo-Bangladesh border on several occasions in your work. What takes you back?
There is no one reason per se. Every time I am planning another journey, another excuse to venture back into the borderlands, it is because I felt something was left incomplete. I return to pick up strands, as if, from a previous meeting or a conversation, which did not quite end. In 2011, I wound 79.5 miles of white thread into a ball for the work 1:14.9, to arrive to an absurd ratio of the 1188.5 miles of fence being built on the India-Pakistan border in the West. This led to travels to the enclaves in the India-Bangladesh borderlands, where straddling border posts and identities lead to, not one, but several crossings in the span of a day. The resulting body of work included a set of drawings made in Phensedyl, a codine-based cough syrup that is illegal in Bangladesh and legal in India. These became the start of another engagement which looks at notions of fixity and motion and of para-legality in the face of what is the world’s longest fence in construction. I have always been interested in symbols, static or those which are waved in the sky, perpetuated by large structures, and which may not echo what is being spoken in the interiors and in the corners of a place.