Shilpa Gupta

Listening Air
multi-channel sound installation, speakers, microphones, lights, printed text on metal stands
dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and Neugerriem-Schneider Gallery
Location: Command Garrison ​​

Fusing text and sculpture in a choreographed, in-motion installation, Shilpa Gupta’s Listening Air (2019-2022) comprises five suspended microphones, each counterbalanced by a dimly lit light fixture, that orbit throughout the darkened gallery and between visitors. Subverting their connotations, the microphones-turned-speakers make audible words that have resonated across landscapes from rice fields to forests, streets and universities. The work includes, among others, a piece by Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz that has recently been sung on campuses across India, and an Italian activist song, originally sung by female rice-paddy labourers, that found revival in the past years’ farmers’ protests in India. A martyr’s song in the central-Indian language Gondi, primarily spoken by large marginalised communities in the region, and a rendition of a text by Nigerian poet and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa voice hope and create a shared space for listening.

Together, they thematise hope, resistance, passion and protest, their mere existence signalling resilience and persistence. The constellation spans dialect, geography and era, interacting with viewers on a physical level and inviting a joint act of listening. Meaning, for Gupta, derives from movement - in a space, between cultures or across nations; either as intention or necessity - which is made literal by the work’s confronting motion. The perception of language thus becomes a shared physical experience in which visitors become part of the installation’s choreography, experiencing and reacting to the recorded voices over the course of a series of movements - of the work and of its audience - and generating new, layered interpretations in the process.


In her multi-disciplinary practice, Shilpa Gupta explores power structures, social stratification, shared histories, and how they dictate socio-political phenomena. Her work often centres on modes of transmitting information and sentiment, such as through the written, spoken or sung word, and the ways in which this expression is shared or systematically repressed. With a focus on how nations, cultures and identities are defined and self-determined, Gupta’s work concerns itself with both the individual and the collective on scales local and global.

Shilpa Gupta has been the subject of solo exhibitions at international museums and institutions including M HKA, Antwerp; Dallas Contemporary, Dallas; Barbican Centre, London; Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (all 2021); YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Baku (2018); Bielefelder Kunstverein, Bielefeld (2017); Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014); and Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2010). Gupta’s work has been featured in the Borås Art Biennial (2021), the 12th Gwangju Biennale (2018), the 58th Venice Biennale (2019) and the 8th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2014). She is the recipient of the GQ Cultural Provocateur Award (2019), the Bienal Award at the Bienal De Cuenca, Ecuador (2011) and the Transmediale Award, Berlin (2004). Gupta lives and works in Mumbai.