while I Sleep
Shilpa Gupta - Mahzarin Banji
13 february - 4 may 2009
As part of its next exhibition/experiment, Le Laboratoire has invited the Indian artist Shilpa Gupta to explore a universal theme: fear. A theme unfortunately most present indeed given the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This project, prepared with the psychologist Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard professor) explores the power of images as expressed by the behavior of individuals. Is it possible that our fears are influenced by our genetic roots via images?
Living in Mumbai, Shilpa Gupta is directly confronted with the issue of terrorism whose main target consists in a huge number of innocent people of mixed origins and religions. Her daily life, marked by acts of terrorism between Hindus and Muslims very soon oriented her work to questions and themes omnipresent in today’s life.
Anguish, depression, fear... hallmarks of 21st-century societies and cultures. A study of these collective phenomena reveals scientific and social themes. Le Laboratoire decided to step in as a catalyst with the result consisting in an artistic work on the frontier of scientific research.
The Power of Images
Shilpa Gupta’s work probes cultural globalization, by means of universal themes such as religion, race, the perception of reality... and now, anxiety. The artist explores the impact of images on our modes of thinking. Can some images be of such power that they lead us to modify our interpretation of reality? In this respect, Shilpa Gupta echoes recent conclusions of philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky pointing to the power of the media on public opinion. Invited to participate in Le Laboratoire exhibition, Noam Chomsky suggested replies to Shilpa Gupta’s questions regarding the influence of the media in terms of the power of images and words.
The Power of Prejudice
Echoing Shilpa Gupta’s artistic proposal, the work done by the neuro-psychiatrist Mahzarin Banaji explores the subconscious thoughts of individuals. What can be said of our prejudices and of social and biological factors that influence our modes of thought? Placed against a backdrop of terrorism, such as in India at the current time, does being Muslim or Hindu have an impact on the mechanisms of fear? Can we consider fear as an expression of involuntary perceptions of our biological system?