Shilpa Gupta

The Museum has acquired a major work by Shilpa Gupta, one of the most important Indian artists working today. With a multimedia practice that is deeply phenomenological, Gupta challenges our understanding of borders – the frontiers, both real and imagined, that mediate our existence. For, in Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit: 100 Jailed Poets exemplifies the profound engagement with language at the heart of the artist’s broader work. Drawing its title from a line by the 14th-century Azerbaijani poet Nesimi, the work consists of 100 books written by poets from around the world and across different periods who have been jailed for their words. Cast in gun metal melted down from scraps found in an Indian marketplace, the books are arranged on a single wooden table so that visitors can approach from all sides and read the poems. Together, they serve as a reminder of the potency of language and its capacity to both divide and unite. This will be the first work by Gupta to enter a public Canadian collection.

This impressive and touching work is the first piece by a contemporary artist from India to be acquired by the MMFA. The power of language and words, their poetry and their potential for violence, are at the heart of Gupta’s discourse. For, in your tongue, I cannot fit: 100 jailed poets is a perfect illustration of this strong attachment to words and names.

Among the 100 poets whose work is immortalized here in gun metal, Gupta chose texts that are very personal for her, written by authors from some forty countries including Khushhal Khattak (1613-1689) from Afghanistan, Jean Richepin (1849-1926) and Auguste Marseille Barthélemy (1796-1867) from France, Asrar Hussain Khan (1919-2000) from India, Alan Ginsberg (1926-1997) from the United States, Habib Jalib (1928-1993) from Pakistan, Ken Saro-Wiwa (1941-1995, father of the artist Zina Saro-Wiwa, creator of a diptych recently acquired by the Museum) from Nigeria, Ashraf Fayadh (1980- ) from Saudi Arabia and Talal-Mallouhi (1991- ) from Syria. The texts are inscribed or translated into English.

Shilpa Gupta (born in 1976), For, in Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit: 100 Jailed Poets, 2017-2018, 100 books cast in gun metal, table. MMFA, purchase, W. Bruce C. Bailey Fête-champêtre Fund. Installation view at YARAT Contemporary Art Space, Baku – solo show by Shilpa Gupta For, in Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Les Moulins / Havana. Photo: Pat Verbruggen.