A Multi-media Installation in Dialogue with Poetry
Semeen Ali
FOR, IN YOUR TONGUE, I CANNOT FIT: ENCOUNTERS WITH PRISON by Shilpa Gupta and Salil Tripathi Westland Books, 2022, 306 pp., ₹ 699.00
March 2023, volume 47, No 3

How bitter language has now become and how narrow the door of the alphabet.

(Adonis, p. 125)

Shilpa Gupta’s sound installation, For, in Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, is a result of years long research on persecuted poets across time and geographies. It was first shown in 2018 at the Edinburgh Art Festival and Yarat Contemporary Art Space. There are over a hundred microphones suspended from the ceiling and an audio loop of snippets of poems is played; the book is a result of that powerful endeavour undertaken a few years ago. The poems that you find in this book date from the eighth century to the times in which we are alive, and the writings are across languages. Here the idea is for the artwork to change the viewer rather than be interpreted by its viewer, and the book achieves the desired result.

At the beginning of the book, in the first few pages is the work by poet Karthika Naïr leaving one breathless as it uses the alphabetical order of letters to strike at the heart of authority; authority not just of people but of a language. The gaps that turn up between the lines can be understood as the silences that threaten to destabilize these fixed structures. The photographs and the sketches that can be found interweaving with writings discuss not just the isolation that as a prisoner an individual is subjected to, but it also turns one’s attention to the stifled voices bottled up and having no means to escape.

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