The old adage goes, “There are two sides to every story”. The Greek story teller Aesop agreed. He said, “Every truth has two sides; it is as well to look at both, before we commit ourselves to either”.
Shilpa Gupta, one of India’s young contemporary artists, focused on exactly this concept during her two part- Partner a Master workshop. This workshop is part of a series of workshops being conducted by Art1st in association with Mohile Parikh Center to give young budding artists aged 12-15 years, the opportunity of engaging with some of the country’s finest artists in Mumbai and Delhi.
July 21st and 28th saw Shilpa Gupta host this workshop at her studio in Bandra for a group of students artists eager to learn from the masters of art. During the course of these sessions, Shilpa conducted simple yet meaningful exercises to convey to the students the power of perception. The workshop began with students sketching, writing and photographing their favorite objects. Each student was then asked to write about their perception of their peers’ objects. The objective of this exercise was two fold :1) to understand that people can have different opinions/perceptions about a particular issue and 2) she effectively got the students to listen to each other’s view points.
The second session involved students sketching their objects under different coloured lights reiterating the idea of perspectives. This was followed by a short presentation on how information and imagery can often be used by governments to gain a political advantage or to influence public opinion. Meaning and significance of an object can often change because of its context. For example, an otherwise worthless lock of hair becomes valuable because it belonged to a celebrity. On the other hand, a seemingly priceless “original” work of art becomes worthless if it turns out to be “a fake”. Such are the powers of perception.
One might wonder how these concepts could be of any significance to students at such a tender age. The message that Shilpa tried to convey however,was simple and can be understood age no bar- Open your minds to different possibilities and multiple ways of looking at something.
What form these ideas will take in the young students’ minds, only time will tell. How and what we think often depends upon how much we know. Teaching them to appreciate multiple perspectives will only broaden their outlook and approach towards life.
(Shilpa Gupta is an interdisciplinary artist who uses interactive video, photography and performance to query and examine themes of consumer culture, desire, security, militarism and human rights. You can read more about her here.)