Last time I hopped on a train to Glasgow, the extensive GENERATION project, celebrating 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland, was still in full swing at almost every art space downtown. To be honest, when I came over last weekend, I didn’t mean to pay the Gallery of Modern Art another visit yet again or even had the foggiest idea what was on. At the end of the day, when push comes to shove, there’s less pleasant places to seek shelter from the pouring rain than the halls of GoMA. So why not have a look around?, I wondered. Maybe I should do that more often, cause ‘Art from Elsewhere’ certainly was pretty much amazing. Curated by David Elliot, the show assembles a set of works recently purchased by six major UK museums, covering themes like life in conflict zones, oppressive government regimes, the advent of capitalism and post-colonial experiences.
After I eagerly wandered through the exhibition space, passing by prominent pieces like Meschac Gaba’s socio-critical installation ‘Brazilian Bank’ or Józef Robakowski’s film chronicle ‘View from my window’, I particularly dwelled on the fine work by Shilpa Gupta for quite a while without any interest in moving along. ‘There is no Border here’ (2006) is a piece that might be just a footnote to some. For me, her inspiring visual poetry has definitely been my highlight of the show. The Indian experimental artist effortlessly illustrates that art doesn’t have to be immensely complex to be clever, engaging and address a difficult issue at once – art that demands us to rack our brains and brood over potential interpretations for hours. Her work is a remarkably witty cultural, political and humanitarian statement, which brilliantly accompanies the theme of Amar Kanwar’s featured documentary film ‘A Season Outside’ – focusing on the conflict between Pakistani and Indians and approaching the philosophies of violence and non-violence. Interactive and thought-provoking, somewhere between poetry and installation, she uses self-adhesive tape that bears the printed inscription ‘There is no Border here’ to visualise her poem’s lyrics enclosed within the shape of an anonymous national flag. As the distraught narrator struggles to divide up the sky above between himself and his lover, vainly trying to achieve the impossible by raising artificial barriers over and over again, Gupta shines a light on the abstract nature of a country’s frontiers and its conflict potential. So clever, so relevant, yet so simple. Congrats, Bristol Museum & Gallery. That’s money well spent!
‘I tried very hard to cut the sky in half. One for my lover and one for me. But the sky kept moving and clouds from his territory came into mine. I tried pushing it away with both my hands. Harder and harder. But the sky kept moving and the clouds from my territory went into his. I brought a sofa and placed it in the middle. But the clouds kept floating over it. I built a wall in the middle, but the sky started to flow through it. I dug a trench. And then it rained and the sky made clouds over the trench. I tried very hard to cut..’
‘Art from Elsewhere’ still runs until 1st February 2015 at Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA), Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow G1 3AH.