- Interact With Art
by Shilpa Gupta | 2011
The installation, Someone Else, is a library of 100 book covers, recreated in steel, which were either written anonymously or under pseudonyms. The work consists of five shelves upon which the books are placed in varying angles. The work involved tedious research along with the task of tracing book covers on to the metal. Interestingly, Gupta uses the typeface of the original cover for her work and has etched the reason of anonymity on to the cover itself. Gupta’s library sources books from various countries, in different languages with authors ranging from Charles Dickens to Emily Brontë, including the oldest known cover that bears a pseudonym. Amusingly, the work only displays the book cover, with the inside text missing, thus concealing the author’s identity yet again by skipping the words of the author.
Through the ages, authors around the world have written anonymously or under pseudonyms, for contrasting and variable reasons. Some were forced and some had a choice, some wanted a barrier between their personal and professional identity, some intended to conceal their gender or identity in fear of societal discrimination or state harassment, whereas some simply wanted freedom, detaching themselves from their identity altogether, free from expectations. Any person with anonymity gets a certain freedom to do as they please without the obligatory judgments from society. For an author whose entire work depends upon what they write, for them to easily guide themselves away from their own reality and create an environment using words, freedom to write what they want is of utmost importance.
As examples, a few authors, present in the work, are listed below along with their reasons:
J K Rowling, the author of the widely acclaimed Harry Potter series, did not use her complete name to publish the books. Rowling’s publishers expected most of the readers of the series to be boys, and thus thought the boys might not want to read a book written by a woman. Therefore, Rowling was advised to use two initials; one would be that of her first name ‘Joanna’ and the other she chose to be ‘K’, since she did not have a middle name, which stood for Kathleen.
The much-loved author of children’s book, Dr. Seuss, has been popular all over the world with his fascinating character of the Cat in the Hat, the Grinch amongst various others. However, Dr. Seuss was a pseudonym used by Theodor Seuss Geisel, who used just his middle name as his pen name since college. Later, his father wanted him to complete his PhD, however, he dropped out and as homage to his father, added ‘Dr.’ to his pseudonym.
Although various reasons were responsible for the anonymity, to do away with censorship and discrimination was the foremost motivation to do so. Being provocative, Gupta’s work invites the audience to ponder on the omnipresent issues that disturb and influence the society. The Bristol Central Library, UK, exhibited the second part of the installation, which displays the actual books editions that the artist has employed in the first installment. The viewers of the second part of the installation can read the books, unlike the previous part.