The beauty of “I live under your sky too,” a public art installation by Shilpa Gupta at Carter Road in Bandra is the whole experience of viewing art in this space by the sea that’s otherwise a point for joggers or those looking for a casual conversation. To watch those incandescent words swimming from English, Hindi to Urdu and back while having your hair ruffled by the breezy coastline and hearing waves crashing in the distance. Best viewed when the piece lights up at 6.30 pm daily and the sky you are under gradually turns dark.
Some associate the sentence with caste or the recent Delhi rape case. Also, this artwork went live on a day that coincided with another event on protecting the environment. So others assumed the work spoke about trees and birds. “I am happy with the extended interpretations about the work which actually stems from growing up in this city and witnessing heightened anxiety on the basis of people of religion. The work is finally about acknowledging whom you think as the other. In fact, the other day, just after I had installed the work, this 60-year-old woman stopped me saying she lives in Landmark, a building that directly faces the artwork. For a second I felt worried, if she wanted complain that it’s too bright but instead she revealed how she loves my work showing up through her windows even after she draws the curtains at night!”
But Shilpa faced way too many hurdles in installing this work she has been making detailed drawings to install outdoor since 2004. Hence seeing it go live was a small victory. “Some of the people I approached for permissions, including the Martime Board thought my art was a hoarding! They couldn’t connect that somebody was doing something for which they are getting nothing out of commercially.” She explains this ‘ignorance’ is because unfortunately there is almost no conception of art in public spaces. It was a long drawn process over months to get the necessary permissions. From authorities changing their minds umpteen times to deciding the spot where the artwork should be installed or fixing a date, it was pure nightmare for the artist and her team. Aside permissions, the artwork itself drew complications. Like difficulty in getting a customized dimmer for the lights to recently covering the back of installation in vinyl when crows ate up some wires of some words that resulted in a short circuit. Things got better when Creative India Foundation, an organization that promotes Indian art around the world stepped in for funding, supported by Chemould Prescott Road and Bandra West Association made seeking permissions easier.
While waiting for the project to materialize on Carter Road, she showcased this artwork as part of her show – Inner Voices (2011) at 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa and used Japanese instead of Hindi. It then traveled to Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art (2012) and will soon be part of a public art project in China. Aside planning to showcase the work at other venues in Mumbai, people in Chennai and Baroda have also shown interest. Shilpa also has a few upcoming exhibitions at Copenhagen and Sharjah Biennial 2013.
“I wanted the work right here in Bandra by the sea. The sea being a symbol for migration over centuries while Bandra being my neighbourhood immersed in diversity that has affected my sensibility in my overall practice as an artist over last 15 years. There were no accidents putting this up but a lot of stress not knowing if it would indeed be possible! But just the dream to put it out there is worth it all na?” says a now relieved Shilpa. I mean, we are talking nine years of never giving up.
The installation will be down on 9th March 2013.