Gupta Chapter 3

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S.R.: Now we get a little bit more historical. When did you hear the first time something about Conceptual art?

S.G.: Pretty much... when you talk about historical... a lot of the information I received or a lot of peers of artists do receive in my generation within Bombay is in the art history class which is one class in one-week in a number of weeks in a year. It's really funny; you are probably in the first year you learn about Renaissance, in the second year you learn about Mannerism. So somewhere in my fourth year or fifth year I came to Pop art; so I guess someday we really spent like fifteen minutes on Pop art and maybe five minutes on Conceptual art and skipped through it. I guess it's somewhere there I must have received it. But I did find it interesting. That was just a one-off. And I often found myself going to British Council libraries which was a thing to go because art library is the college library in the school of art is up to a certain period. For more updated – the greed for information so you'll end up in the British Council. Sometimes in the USAS but more in the British Council because it lets you take home books. I guess there one sort of heard more about... I mean, accessed more information about. But then also it would not be a book on Conceptual art but »Art in America after 1945»; Walter Benjamin: »Art in the age of Mechanical Reproduction» - these were the kinds of books one accessed as a bunch of information, but not really contextual, very very theoretical stuff. It was just an overall bit of paragraphs on different periods.

S.R.: So how important are the conceptual paradigms?

S.G.: I guess for me it's pretty much... I have to have a battle with the fact that a lot of people brand me as a conceptual artist sometimes, and I kind of don't find it very closely related, because I am not informed of the history or of the strong social intellectual way in which it was formed from or the social context; I'm not informed enough about it. But I guess... Yes. I mean. You have to just tell me again. Yes, how strong are the paradigms. I think I fail it knowing all the paradigms properly enough. It's just that certain aspects of my work overlap with it; maybe it's text or it's the emphasis on interactivity. I really don't find – honestly speaking - wanting to fit into any of these brackets because they are really superimposed on us, and for anything which is developed so far in the US. And I'm sitting somewhere in some city in Bombay, am someone who has probably come across one single paragraph on it somewhere, and maybe something overlaps on it. So I just feel it's not easy for me to... it's just not fair to sort of want to brand or take certain terms formulated elsewhere and then map it on us. It just doesn't work. It's probably... There should be a new term for certain art forms formulated in, say, Asian countries; there is a certain way of receiving information without really having a historical, living experience, or local living experience.

S.R.: Maybe it's little bit fitting to what's Luis Camnitzer... He was living in Latin America and he said exactly what you just said, that in his perspective, in his view, many different local Conceptualisms developed in the 1950s and 1960s, but most of the people only know about the British or the New York Conceptual art. Exactly what you said is my intention to find out how in different places locally developed something like this, a conceptual approach without knowing that there is something built that is called Conceptual art. So that was really precise, what you just said.

S.G.: And you know it's so funny; it's just because you very well know that a type of people who have the power to print information and to disseminate it, like there is a British Council Library in Bombaby but there is nobody who would print any books on Indian art and push it in the American scene. So information and influence and power is very much one-directional to the media of print, so it's a strange thing which we have to grapple with. But maybe there are overlaps of experiences, maybe the text plays a huge form, maybe a certain situation perhaps America faced in the 70s, maybe certain aspects of it, maybe it still faces it. It's really funny. I find it really a very, very twisted kind of a game to sort of often say that »okay, Expressionism was here, Conceptualism was here« a sort of brand periods; but I think it's actually very criss-crossing. I mean it's also a thing of making fashion in an art scene; it's a business to do so, it's a business to perpepuate a system – like okay, now, there was Conceptualism and now it's out, the in-and-out game. So.

S.R: Can you say the last two (?)

S.G.: (...) This whole thing business of having -isms, is also somewhere; it's not the beginning and the end or really take the truth of it, because it has to do with making fashion, and making fashion is a lot of... You know. Like you want to make something »in» because you want to make something »out», and then you want to make something else »in». I wouldn't be too astonished if there was some kind of Conceptual art even now on the US or all over the world or in Indonesia, in India. So I mean, you know- It's probably because there is an overlap of situations because there is more text now, there was no text, say, in the 10th century as much as printing was after a few centuries. So there is text, there is that experience, there is a blend very day that you grapple with. It allows an overlap of experiences and perhaps a flow of certain isms across, not just countries, continents, but across the centuries – sorry, centuries is too much, but across decades. This whole »ism» business also is to be taken with lots of salt, pinches of salt, I would say.

S.R.: That's the reason why we try to speak about »conceptualisms» not only one »-ism». That you have different cultures.

S.G.: Can I add something? As an Asian artist it's even worse, because there is a certain hierarchy which is always built-in, as to say: hey, you've copied from the West, or hey, you've picked up. And it's sort of, that this sentence is not for inquiry, but to create a level to say that you have been influenced and therefore you are not so good.

S.R.: ... that was a real good issue. The copy thing. (??) they always say: »Oh it's only a copy of something« and they don't eralize that there is something original and they don't realize that's original.

S.G.: Yes, but I think it's more interesting – this intention of the statement rather than the statement itself; it more to create a hierarchy, and it wants to perpetuate a hierarchy, that the other ones have done that, the other ones. And it's so funny that they actually manage to get the same brain-thought even weaving into a lot of local Indian writers or Indian artists, into seeing that... Yeah it's a funny thing, you have to really battle with, in India as an artist; at one hand the people think that you are doing avant-garde art or you are doing net art or you are doing some kind of Conceptualism or blablabla... Or working with ready-made stuff but then actually, people back home sometimes think that you are imitating the West, the West think you imitate. It's just a way of I think denying or creating more borders between groups.

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