Interview: In Conversation with Shilpa Gupta

1:14.9, 2011–12. Polyester thread, wood, glass, and brass, A.P. 1/2, edition of 3, 64 3/16 × 22 × 20 inches (163 × 55.9 × 50.8 cm). Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund, 2012, 2012.148. © Shilpa Gupta. Installation view: No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, February 22–May 22, 2013. Photo: Kristopher McKay

Shortly after the No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia exhibition opened in Hong Kong, the Asia Society Hong Kong Center asked Shilpa Gupta about the story behind her work, 1:14.9.

Q: Your work illustrates the fragility of national borders, particularly referencing India and Pakistan. How is this work intended to have wider universal relevance?
A: Creation of nations is a rather new phenomenon - the oldest nation being only 200 years old - so several regions face the complexity of dealing with borders as communities have been around longer. Also people being people will move and so also their languages, religions, behavior patterns, etc. move. Borders imagine that they can contain these and we see all over the world people jostling with lines being drawn around them.

Q: Does the inclusion of the artwork in the context of the No Country exhibition provide it with additional meaning?
A: The show places the work in a wider sensibility felt by artists from the region

Q: How was the work made?
A: It is hand wound with 79.5 miles of thread so had taken several months.

Q: Your work has been shown extensively internationally including at Tate Modern and the Centre Pompidou. Has the globalization of the art world affected your practice and career?
A: The wave of globalization blew into Mumbai in the early 1990's while I was very young and its energy and contradictions one has experienced from early on. One has grown up with bill boards advertising objects from far away or objects made locally by those who are from far away. Within a very layered and highly complex and old society like India, globalization is not terribly jostling! Within the art world context, it felt rather energetic at a certain point, but you do what you have to do as an artist anyways!

Q: How do you think the arts scene in Mumbai will develop in the next 5-10 years?
A: We experienced a boom of new galleries with the market rise in mid 2000's. While there have been just a one or two foundations and museums till now, and the government continues to be un-interested in contemporary art, new museums, new foundations and art universities, all privately funded will be established. Another layer will be created and more new layers formed in response to it.