Shilpa Gupta, Rashid Rana
A Collateral Event of the 56th Venice Biennale
My East is Your West, was presented as a Collateral Event of the 56th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Commissioned by The Gujral Foundation, this landmark exhibition united for the first time at the Biennale the historically conflicting nations of India and Pakistan in a shared exhibition by artists from both countries. Shilpa Gupta (Mumbai) and Rashid Rana (Lahore) each presented a new series of works at the Palazzo Benzon, situated in the centre of Venice on the Grand Canal. As neither India nor Pakistan had a permanent national pavilion in Venice, this presentation provided a unique platform for artists from South Asia to enter into a dialogue through the arts, representing the Indian subcontinent as one region.
Titled after a light installation by Shilpa Gupta, My East is Your West was born out of the desire to reposition the complex climate of historical relations between South Asia’s nation-states and presented the region as a shared cultural cartography. Shilpa Gupta’s series of works brought together over four years of ongoing research in the India-Bangladesh borderlands and the world’s longest security barrier between two nation-states currently in construction. She exhibited works ranging from installation, video, photography, drawings, text-based pieces and performance, which took place throughout the opening week and at intervals throughout the Biennale. Rashid Rana presented an immersive setting across five rooms surveying the conception of presence, temporality and location as collective experience, across digital printmaking, video and installation. In a livestream video work, produced in collaboration with the Lahore Biennale Foundation, viewers were transported from Venice to Lahore and vice versa.
Reflecting each distinctive practice, both artists explored and examined the integral essence of a people divided, a history which spans antiquity, colonial modernity and a cosmopolitan present entangled inconflict. With works that brought to the foreground entangled realities of the Indian subcontinent, Shilpa Gupta and Rashid Rana developed a material aesthetic that surveyed the potential of a common region, separate from the state and its model.
Shilpa Gupta and Rashid Rana and Naeem Mohaiemen, also exhibited at the Venice Biennale, participated in an artist talk, Imagined Cartographies, focusing on their practice and contemporary art in South Asia.