My East is Your West...


(Most) Art exhibition still are just about observation. A few of them admit the direct participation of the visitors, something that can be truly tedious for organisers and curators.
However, in the mood of Venice's Biennial, where artists throughout the world show their latest creations, anything can happen.
My East is Your West is an interactive exhibition with a particular curatorial detail: an artist from Pakistan, Rashid Rana (1968), is united with an artist from India, Shilpa Gupta (1976). Their artwork is housed in a very picturesque location, that of the Palazzo Benzon, a structure that goes back to the 18th century.
Gupta is a young artist whose art reflects on the perception and visibility of the border issue that confronts both countries. One of the most interesting pieces on display is a photographic documentation of a performance in which the image is concealed, much as the conflict is hidden to the inhabitants of the area.
3300 Km of Fenced Border, by Shilpa Gupta (March 31st, 2014)
Photographic documentation of the performance
Palazzo Benson
In another room there's an installation with hundreds of envelopes. A sign invites visitors to take one envelope and carry it home, with the sole condition that it must be opened once outside of the Palazzo. Thus the artwork is carried away from the frontiers of the exhibition. The experience creates a mixture of feelings, from surprise to anxiety, as we wait to find out the secret in the envelope (The answer? By the end of this post...)
Witness is denial, by Shilpa Gupta (2015) - Detail
Palazzo Benson
The artworks by both artists are true to the tone imposed by Okwui Enwezor for this Biennial (reflection and denunciation), although Rana prefers to visually entertain. His series is entitled Transposition and includes various installations divided into 5 interconnected rooms. Temporality, presence, location and collective experience defy perception, as visitors are faced with a mirrored setting. One of the installations is I do not always feel immaterial, a huge frame that reflects the opposing wall and which, at first hand, offers no other attraction. However, as the visitor exists the room, he is confronted with himself (Here's the trick: A camera captures the image and then broadcasts it on the artworks seconds later. Although something was done before, the idea was bought by Disney).
Another room displays a pixeled and mirrored replica of Jacques-Louis David's The Oath of the Horatii (Musée du Louvre). According to Rana, this historical artwork, doubled and modified by technology, represent today's conflicts over territory and power suffered by these two Nations.
War Within II, by Rashid Rana (2013-2015)
C print + DIASEC
Palazzo Benson
The artwork Shuhuud-o-sahhhid-o-mashhuud (The viewing, the vierwer and the viewed) still plays with mirrors and reflections and it is exhibited in two cities at the same time. One half is in the city of Venice, where a screen shows a room with identical decoration as that at the Palazzo, but that room is actually in Lahore (Pakistan), where the other half of the artwork takes place. The interaction between the visitors of both rooms is immediate and the artist is able to link two cities in one same space at the same time.
Shuhuud-o-sahhhid-o-mashhuud, by Rashid Rana (2015)
(Detail: Lahore side)
Palazzo Benson
Shuhuud-o-sahhhid-o-mashhuud, by Rashid Rana (2015)
(Detail: Venice side)
Palazzo Benson
With Transposition, Rashid Rana turns the Palazzo Benson into a center of experimentation and, with the use of technology, transports it to the 21st century.

Spoiler Alert! The envelope contains pieces of papers... but Gupta certainly achieves her aim...

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