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On a pause

SHAILAJA TRIPATHI
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ART With a single, large scale installation in her debut show, Suchitra Gahlot responds to the noise of the Internet. SHAILAJA TRIPATHI

The mind begins to recall and relate to the words that it comes across in bits of paper that fly wildly in the jars suspended from the ceiling. The whole thing is quite addictive because the gaze refuses to move and the transfixed viewer is enticed to ‘discover’ familiar words in that chaos. Artist Suchitra Gahlot tells the story of her struggle with digital living through ‘Shut Up, Internet’ which mirrors our relationship with the world of digital technology as well. Shut Up, Internet is a massive installation of 17 jars suspended from the ceiling in which bits of paper fly to a controlled turbulence which takes place for 40 seconds before it stops to breaks into an ecstasy again. On display at Shrine Empire Gallery, it was first exhibited at Alliance Francaise where a bigger version, of 60 jars in edition of five was shown by Suchitra.

The words, on paper dyed red, aren’t just random words, although they become one, as they are severed from the context. And the context is 40,000 personal e-mails of the artist dating from 1995. The words are from these mails, that sat in her inbox for many many years. “It turned out that no more than 50 mails out of these 40,000 mails were of any importance. I started thinking about my own history with so much data. It gave me a sense of how my relationships with people have evolved with time. Advertisements of flats, mails of pictures of my kid, without any subject, from my husband…I could notice patterns,” says the Gurgaon-based artist.

Not to be viewed as an anti-technological stance, she describes her piece as a response to bring a moment of quiet. “It is about how our time is never our time now. How through mobile phones and the Internet, we are accessible to people all the time. Somebody is writing to you, texting you, calling you, anytime of the day, expecting a response,” says Suchitra, who is not formally trained in art.

“I think art happens. You have no control over it. When I first thought of this work, I had a vision…and I just stuck to it,” says Suchitra in response to why she decided to choose the visual vocabulary, she did.

Her work arises from landscape of her experienced emotions but they have universal appeal. Her first work, ‘One Thousand Tears’ had emerged out of her migraine attacks whereas ‘In Some Days I Wake Up Thinking Is There Really a God’ in 2008, she showed 100 spilled ice-cream cones.

In ‘Discomfort’, a video installation, she exhibited at the India Art Fair 2012, had screens showing people using their wrong hand to do regular mundane tasks of the day. “My art throws me back into education. You get into the physics of things, like with this piece, which is so technical. By pursuing different expressions, I end up experimenting with lot of techniques.”

(The work ‘Shut Up, Internet’ is on display at Shrine Empire, 7, Friends Colony West, till October 5, 2013)

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