The Mumbai-based Shilpa Gupta, one of India's most notable contemporary artists, has long been concerned with visualising political divisions and amplifying the plight of the voiceless in her work. Gupta's first major UK solo show ties these two threads together tightly—though not neatly—in an impassioned defence of free speech. The exhibition's largest work, the 2017 sound installation For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, fills a dimly lit room with leaves of paper printed with poems by incarcerated dissident writers from around the world. These are punctured upon rows of upright metal stakes; from 100 low hung microphones the poems are spoken aloud, sometimes alone, sometimes in unison. The chorus occasionally chants, its sound swelling into cacophony, before dissipating into whispers and breath.
Ten of these printed poems hang on the walls of the Curve's main gallery, more legible in the bright light, next to single-line pencil drawings on papers. These depict moments of embrace, quiet solitude, and abuse at the hands of fascist governments. Those familiar with Gupta’s earlier work will detect her interest in the political cartography, specifically that of the divided South Asian subcontinent. When studying her delicate, unbroken lines, one can observe every breath and quiver of the hand that drew them. As ever, Gupta likes to draw the eye past a work's formal qualities and locate the human behind the mark, the person behind the process.