Untitled (27)

Archival pigment print. 42 x 28 inches.


Untitled (15)

Archival pigment print. 60 x 40 inches.

Acts of Appearance (2015 – ongoing)

Acts of Appearance assumed its form within a village of Adivasi paper mache artists from the Kokna and Warli tribes in Jawhar district. Further inland from Dahanu, it is one of the most impoverished districts in Maharashtra. In Rajasthan, among her Jogi friends during Holi, Gill had first encountered people wearing store-bought masks to play-act various personas as part of the fun of the festival. In Maharashtra, she learned of the Bohada procession, held once a year in many Adivasi villages, in which the entire community participates in a ritual performance over several nights, to enact a mythological tale. The performers are chosen from among the residents and wear elaborate masks made by artists to represent different gods, demons, and ancillary figures. The Bohada masks take weeks to make, are sacred and consecrated, and constitute a moral and imaginative universe, but also conform to strict rules of creation as they represent powerful archetypes refined over generations of storytelling. In 2014, Gill sought out the acclaimed brothers Subhas and Bhagvan Dharma Kadu, sons of the legendary craftsman Dharma Kadu, with a proposal. She wished to commission them, along with their families and fellow volunteers (more than thirty people in total), to create a new set of masks—not of gods or demons as per local tradition and lore, but rather as representing beings existing in contemporary reality. The interpretive creations were to come from them, with the suggestion that they embody different ages, distinctive individuals, the varied rasas (emotions) like love, sadness, fear or anger, and those experiences common to all humans, such as sickness, relationships, or aging. In the course of dialogue, animals were naturally understood to be a part of this universe. Later, precious objects entered the frame, as they are believed to have sentience too. Inhabiting these masks, a cast of ‘actor’ volunteers (including the artists) would later improvise and enact different real scenarios, 'across dreaming and waking states’, in and around the village.


Acts of Appearance was created with the participation of Bhagvan Dharma Kadu, Subhas Dharma Kadu, Yuvraj Bhagvan Kadu, Rahul Arvind Kakad, Rahul Bhagvan Kadu, Makhaval Bhagvan Kadu, Madhuri Subhas Kadu, Rangeeta Arvind Kakad, Darshana Devram Kakad, Ganesh Ganpat Lokhande, Sangeeta Ganesh Lokhande, Sangeeta Navnath Kadu, Kusum Bhagvan Kadu, Harishchandra Rama Kadu, Suvrna Harishchandra Vad, Anjana Sachin Kurbude; along with Sachin Sankar Kurbude, Sanjay Sakharam Vatas, Ganpat Ganga Lokhande, Rupesh Arvind Kakad, Nalini Pradip Valvi, Jyoti Sanjay Vatas, Shravan Budhya Tumbda, Saraswati Subhas Kadu, Sapna Bhagvan Kadu, Bhawna Bhagvan Kadu, Pooja Arvind Kakad, Tushar Prakash Vatas, Tushar Dinkar Vatas, Vijaya Navnath Kadu, Suraj Tukaram Vad, Nishant Tulshiram Thalkar, Nilam Sunil Marad; and Vaibhav Subhas Kadu, Mukta Subhas Kadu, Gangubai Eshwar Vazare, Rajashri Eshwar Vazare, Sampat Ragho Vazare.


“A face with greenish tones and neatly parted hair, somewhat like a Noh theatre mask, is pictured within the narrow mirror hung over a dry stonewall. He is lean, appears slightly cross and stares back in a reversed gaze. This solitary stance leads one to deliberate over the masks we adorn daily that highlight individualistic tropes while immersed in a sea of digital interfaces. The ‘filtered’ portrait is after all not merely a social media tool but also a mask—one that is entrenched in a vicious loop of alienation and boredom, while disrupting the very notion of truth and self-image. Gill’s portrayal with masked beings proposes an alternative mode of engagement that inculcates what Elizabeth A. Povinelli has regarded as an “ontology of the otherwise”[1]. There is a direct address to collective survival and vulnerabilities that navigate between the hidden and the revealed, shattering the assumed hierarchical spectrum of hyper-visibility. In this bind of intimacy and double consciousness, the photograph becomes the groundwork of resistance.”


Excerpted from Natasha Ginwala’s essay: A Multitudinous Cast, 2018


Images - Excerpt img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img

MoMA PS1, New York, 2018 img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img


Untitled (26)
Silver gelatin print. 11 by 14 inches.

The Mark on the Wall (1999 - ongoing)

The Mark on the Wall is a set of photographs in which Gill documents drawings made by local artists, children and teachers in government schools in Rajasthan under the now lapsed Leher Kaksha scheme, initiated by the state to help children learn visually from the walls in their classrooms. From the most tentative marks to those ever more sophisticated, from determined depictions of children making their way to school to individualistic expressions of nature, from maps of the village to symbols of the State, in what these fragments choose to express—to represent, aspire to, or impart as learning—are offered revealing glimpses of the collective mind of a rural community.



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Installation views, Mirchandani and Steinruecke Gallery, Mumbai, 2016 img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img

Installation views, Epigraphic Museum, Athens, 2017 img img img img img img img img img


Building the City
Ink on Archival Pigment Print, Unique Print, 42 x 62 inches,

Fields of Sight (2013 - ongoing)

In Fields of Sight, Gauri Gill collaborates with renowned Warli artist Rajesh Vangad. The series began in early 2013 in Ganjad, Dahanu, an Adivasi village in coastal Maharashtra. A new visual language emerged symbiotically from Gill’s initial experiences of photographing the landscape. Looking at her contact sheets, she perceived that although the camera was capturing the distinct ‘chameleon-like’ skin of the landscape, it was missing vital aspects of what was not apparent to the eye, yet was vividly relayed in the great stories narrated to her by Vangad. The photographs by Gill, inscribed by drawings by Vangad, reconfigure the photographic site both formally as well as conceptually, to arrive at new documents of multiple truths and knowledge systems.In the act of viewing the landscape through the eyes of Vangad, Gill rekindles the need to challenge the way we see things today, what our eyes capture and what may elude them. ‘As though one were photographing an old home, and the resident of the house came out, and began to speak’.


“We see here a photographer of and from contemporary, urban India (though of a land-centered community herself), and an artist/painter of the Adivasi community from Maharashtra, whose visual narratives work together to tell stories that demand to be heard as equally contemporary, and not as relics of a traditional, or “tribal” past, a term that the British as well as independent India have called Vangad’s communities. He is not a ‘lost” figure of what Renato Rosaldo called “imperial nostalgia,” asking us to mourn what we ourselves have destroyed. He is not destroyed, but there, producing a language and art practice that uses the modern medium – the photograph, the motorcycle – to assert presence rather than provide the possibility of mechanical replication of that which is lost. Gill’s own photographic practice of collaboration and presence (see her work 1984, for instance) uses the photograph as a memory practice that asserts that the moment of photographic capture can prevent closure of stories of violence and suffering. Her characters challenge us to remember that their stories are not over, much remains to be done, whether it is redress, reparation, or in this case, recognition that identities of those deemed to be un-modern remain to challenge the politics of the neo-liberal state that denies that minority communities have a stake in the country’s future.”


Excerpted from Inderpal Grewal’s essay: Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vangad, Fields of Sight, 2014.


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Installation views, Landesmuseum, Kassel 2017 Installation view, Landesmuseum, Kassel, 2 Installation view, Landesmuseum, Kassel, 3 Installation view, Landesmuseum, Kassel, 4 Installation view, Landesmuseum, Kassel, 5 Installation view, Landesmuseum, Kassel, 6 Installation view, Landesmuseum, Kassel, 7

Installation views, New Orleans Museum of Art, 2018 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 2 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 3 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 4 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 5 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 6 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 7 Installation view, New Orleans Museum of Art, 8

Installation views, Experimenter Gallery, Kolkata, 2014 img img img img img imgimg


Installation 3

Traces (1999 - ongoing)

Traces, is a series memorialising unmarked and marked graves in the desert, and one of the most recent subset of images articulated from Gills archive of images, Notes from the Desert. The handmade graves belong to people with relatively few economic resources—peasants, nomads and other inhabitants of remote villages in Western Rajasthan; and from both the Muslim and Hindu communities, pointing to a more heterogeneous complexity of the local population and contradicting the conservative formulations of nationalist politics in India today.


Created from materials found in nature, the graves exist lightly upon the earth’s surface. As physical sites of memory in the midst of the desert landscape, they are just as exposed to processes of coming into being and passing away as those buried there were in life and death. Using stones, shards of pottery, hand-inscribed gravestones or personal items, a place is marked with the available materials, in all modesty, to pay homage and cultivate memory. Over time, they are reabsorbed by the landscape as they are imbibed by other creatures of the earth, or erased by sand and the elements. Either partly embraced or nearly wholly immersed, each site is as unique and significant as a monumental work of art, although free of the heavy subjectivity of permanent historical record. As visual documents of these ephemeral constructions, Gill’s images occupy overlapping definitions of symbolic cognition.


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Installation views, Kochi Biennale, 2016/17 img img

Installation views, Museum Tinguely, 2018 img img img


Birth series 7.

Birth series 7

Silver gelatin print. 16 by 20 inches.

Birth Series (2005, first shown in 2010)

The set of photographs was made when Gill lived some days with a great midwife in a remote village in Motasar, Ghafan. Kasumbi Dai had invited Gill to photograph her deliver her granddaughter. The photographer ended up both photographing, as well as assisting with the birth. Kasumbi Dai died in 2010.


“One room in the gallery contains a series of small photographs in which the elderly midwife Kasumbi is delivering her granddaughter on the sandy floor of their desert hut. The veiled mother-to-be, arms clad to the shoulders in ivory bangles, strains and pushes. The midwife helps by pressing the soles of her feet against the laboring woman’s and grasps her hands to create resistance. We see the infant’s emerging head and the outstretched hands guiding it into the world, and then the newborn gasping its first breaths in the sand.

The great dramas of life and death, love and longing, growth and change, captured in these images are presented with the same matter-of-factness that accompanies these great life passages is this place - with unadorned humanity rather than maudlin sentimentality.”

Excerpted from Maya Kovskaya's review, 2010


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Balika Mela Portrait 11

Sunita, Sita and Nirmala

Archival pigment print. 28 by 42 inches.


Suman and Kalavati

Archival pigment print. 27 by 40 inches.

Balika Mela (2003/2010)

In 2003 the non profit organization Urmul Setu Sansthan organised a Balika Mela - or fair for girls, in Lunkaransar town, attended by almost fifteen hundred adolescent girls from seventy surrounding villages. The Mela had various stalls, food, performances, a Ferris wheel, magicians, puppet shows, games and competitions, similar to any other small town fair. Urmul Setu invited the photographer to “do something with photography” at the Mela.


“I created a photo-stall for anyone to come in and have their portrait taken, and later buy the silver gelatin print at a subsidised rate if they wished. I had a few basic props and backdrops, whatever we could get from the local town studio and cloth shop on a very limited budget, but it was fairly minimal, and since it can get windy out in the desert everything would keep getting blown around, or periodically struck down. The light was the broad, even light of a desert sky, filtered through the cloth roof of our tent. Many of the more striking props - like the peacock and the paper hats - were brought in by the girls themselves. Girls came in, and decided how and with whom they would like to be photographed – best friends, new friends, sisters, the odd younger brother who had tagged along, girls with their teachers, the whole class, the local girl scouts. Some of those who posed for the pictures went on to learn photography in the workshops that we started in May of that year, and two years later they photographed the fair themselves.”


Gauri Gill, 2009

In 2010, Gill returned to attend a Balika Mela held after a gap of seven years, with an exhibition in a tent. Many of the girls portrayed in the pictures from 2003 were either at the fair or known to those who attended. She ended up making more portraits, this time in color.


"Critics like to cast Balika Mela as a modern replay of the emancipatory mid-nineteenth-century zenana photo studio, where mainly female Indian photographers shot performative pictures of elite Indian concubines from palatial harems who otherwise lived in purdah (wearing the veil). The comparison ignores the fact that her subjects have nothing to do with orientalist identity politics or feudal concubinage. The images do, however, have a feel for the region’s dizzying rates of female infanticide, but also for the corollary: that women just want to be. Their skits of aspiration and quiet daring, while certainly quite a bit of fun, would also become pragmatic weapons while they eventually struggle to get jobs, as some do. Indeed, one workshop participant, Manju Saran, who went on to reject purdah after marriage, also established a successful photo studio. The book concludes with Manju’s first-person account, delivered partly in the third person, like a split personality negotiating the gap between an ideal state of freedom and the knowledge it is not quite hers yet, not unlike Gill’s portrayals of the same."


Prajna Desai in Aperture Issue 225, On Feminism, 2017


Images 2003 – Excerpt img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img

Images 2010 – Excerpt img img img img img img img img img img img img img img img

Installation views, Balika Mela, Lunkaransar 2010 img img img

Installation views, Matthieu Foss Gallery, Mumbai 2010 img img img img img img img img img img img

Installation views, Nature Morte Gallery, New Delhi 2012 img img img img img img img img img img img img img img imgimgimgimgimg



Ruined Rainbows Picture 4

Ruined Rainbow 4

C – Print. 16 by 20 inches.


Ruined Rainbow (First shown in 2010)

The series was created by the photographer from rolls of film taken by children photographing in the same Barmer villages as her, and discarded by them because they were ‘ruined’.


"The children were excited and enthusiastic, and photographed widely—from inside their homes to out in the fields. In the process of learning, they made ‘mistakes’. On one occasion they were horrified to see flashes of light streaked across the prints I brought them—the unknown photographer had accidentally opened the back of the camera and exposed the film to light. No one would claim the film as belonging to them, and it was instantly discarded as kharaab, failed or ruined—I kept it in my bag.


Years later, in 2010, when I was editing my own contact sheets for an exhibit, Notes from the Desert, I found these rolls. I looked at them anew, and was moved to see long familiar faces and places appear in the photographs. I wondered which particular child had made the images, and at the precise exchange that might have occurred at that moment. I thought about photography, and how despite all of its superior claims to representing the truth, even completely undoctored images offer only a subjective narrative—this particular one quite different from my own—therefore there are as many possible narratives as individuals. As with life, the medium of technology introduces its own presence through chance and accidents.


I played with the prints, and when I looked at them again, the ruined images had formed an unexpected rainbow. A Ruined Rainbow, if you will. I decided to include this in the show.”


Gauri Gill 2015


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Installation views, University of Chicago, 2016


Untitled (30)
Silver gelatin print. 5 x 7 inches..

Jannat (1999 – 2007)

Jannat b. 1984 d. 2007. This series — which includes photographs and textual artifacts — is based upon the life of a young girl (Jannat), and her small and imperiled family of three, living in a remote hamlet in rural Rajasthan. It is drawn from over two decades of friendship between Gill and Jannat’s family, who live in the settlement in the desert.


Jannat’s name also means garden, or paradise.


Made between 1999 and 2007, and first installed and exhibited in 2011, Jannat is composed of 44 silver gelatin prints, along with 8 texts, in a circular narrative.


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Installation views, Asia House, London, 2011 Installation view, Asia House, London, 2 Installation view, Asia House, London, 3 Installation view, Asia House, London, 4 Installation view, Asia House, London, 5 Installation view, Asia House, London, 6 Installation view, Asia House, London, 7 Installation view, Asia House, London, 8 Installation view, Asia House, London, 9 Installation view, Asia House, London, 10 Installation view, Asia House, London, 11



Izmat, Barmer
Silver gelatin print. 24 by 30 inches.

Notes from the Desert (1999 - ongoing)

The extensive project (begun in 1999) is a photographic archive of the years Gill has spent visiting her friends among marginalised rural communities in Western Rajasthan—including Jogi nomads, Muslim migrants and Bishnoi peasants.


The body of work encompasses various narratives and sub-series within it, and uses different forms of image making. There are photographs structured around performance and portraits—some spontaneous, others created in collaboration with her subjects. It includes posed pictures made in a tent studio on the one hand (Balika Mela); cinema-verite intimate portraits on the other (Birth Series, Jannat); those that are staged in real life environments; or using negatives made and discarded by others (Ruined Rainbow). The work references vernacular and popular practices of photography and image making often found in and around the village—including the studio portrait, passport photo, religious calendar art and Bollywood posters. The archive also contains images without visible persons, yet containing human presence—for instance, documenting drawings in schools in The Mark on the Wall; and both marked and unmarked graves in Traces.


Gauri hopes to eventually publish the work as a series of individual books—each book a note from the desert. The first one, Balika Mela, was published in 2012.


“To set up a photographic project in rural Rajasthan, in black and white, stretching over a decade, goes against the grain of several stereotypes; and signals the maturing of a ‘voice’ within the corpus of Photography in India. Defrocked of its color and tourism potential, Rajasthan, is scoured at the nomadic margins; revealing lives in transition: epic cycles of birth, death, drought, flood, celebration and devastation, through which they pass. The extremity of the situation requires no illustration or pictorialism—those vexed twins of the colonial legacy—especially from an insider, or the one who is led by the hand. Her subjects take her into their world, and she goes there like Alice. Her method embraces ‘Time’—which does not ‘naturally’ exist inside a photograph, beyond the epiphany and commemoration of a moment (photography’s melancholy and limitation is precisely this)—within a structure of intimacy and relationships that unravel their mysteries slowly.”


Excerpted from Anita Dube’s essay: The Desert—Mirror: Reflections on the photographs of Gauri Gill, 2010.


PDF of full text

Images - Excerpt img img img img img img imgimgimgimgimgimgimgimgimgimgimgimgimg

Installation views, Smithsonian Institution, 2016 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 2 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 3 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 4 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 5 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 6 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 7 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 8 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 9 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 10 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 11 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 12 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 13 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 14 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 15 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 16 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 17 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 18 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 19 Installation view, Smithsonian Institution, 20




This notebook about the anti-Sikh pogrom that occurred in New Delhi in 1984 contains photographs taken by Gill in 2005, 2009, 2014 and 2019 alongside captions from the Indian print media in which they first appeared and text responses by forty one artists - including writers, poets and film makers. The photographs from 2005 appeared in Tehelka (with Hartosh Bal); and from 2009 in Outlook (with Shreevatsa Nevatia). The corresponding captions are roughly as they were inscribed in the published reports.


Text responses are by Amitabha Bagchi, Jeebesh Bagchi, Meenal Baghel, Sarnath Bannerjee, Hartosh Bal, Amarjit Chandan, Arpana Caur, Rana Dasgupta, Manmeet Devgun, Anita Dube, Mahmood Farouqui, Iram Ghufran, Ruchir Joshi, Rashmi Kaleka, Ranbir Kaleka, Sonia Khurana, Saleem Kidwai, Pradip Kishen, Subasri Krishnan, Lawrence Liang, Zarina Muhammed, Veer Munshi, Vivek Narayanan, Monica Narula, Teenaa Kaur Pasricha, Ajmer Rode, Arundhati Roy, Anusha Rizvi, Nilanjana Roy, Inder Salim, Hemant Sareen, Priya Sen, Shuddhabrata Sengupta, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh, Nilima Sheikh, Gurvinder Singh, Jaspreet Singh, Madan Gopal Singh, Paromita Vohra.


Suite of drawings by Gagan Singh. Endpiece drawings by Venkat Singh Shyam.


Released on Kafila.org in April 2013, re-released in November 2014, November 2017, November 2019; 22.86 x 17.78 cms; 116 pages, 45 black and white photographs; 24 drawings; free to download, print out, staple and distribute.


Free printable pdf is here.

1984 Bibliography

Installation views, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019 Installation view, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019, 2 Installation view, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019, 3 Installation view, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019, 4 Installation view, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019, 5 Installation view, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019, 6 Installation view, Chobimela, Dhaka, 2019, 7

Installation views, ifa-Galerie Berlin Installation views, ifa-Galerie Berlin, 2 Installation view, ifa-Galerie Berlin, 3

Installation views, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 2 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 3 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 4 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 5 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 6 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 7 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 8 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 9 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 10 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 11 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 12 Installation view, Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2017, 13


Clothes made by women in sewing classes at Khalsa Diwan,Tilak Nagar,<br>New Delhi 2008.

Typing classes at Khalsa Diwan. Tilak Nagar, New Delhi, 2011

C - Print. 16 x 20 inches.

What Remains (2007 - 2011)

img img img img img img img img img img imgWhat Remains documents the displacement of the Afghani Sikh and Hindu community from Kabul to Delhi, over successive waves of migration, to question notions of identity, home, and belonging. The collaborative work includes Gill’s own photographs, taken in Kabul and Delhi, anonymous photographs taken by members of the Sikh community in Afghanistan, and written texts by children of the community, drawn from writing workshops the artist conducted at the Khalsa Diwan Afghan Hindu-Sikh Refugee association school in Tilak Nagar, New Delhi.


“What we take, what we leave behind, who we were there and what we become here, and through it all what remains—what continues to live in and around us, or in our children. I am interested in the act of making such physical journeys, both by individuals and communities. The work is composed of a series of facts, building, colliding, contradicting, interrupting or arbitrary. I believe history herself is composed of an infinite number of details that may mean nothing—or nothing significant—or everything, the inferences are for us to draw. The thread is the resistance provided by stubborn memory."


Gauri Gill 2011


"Social and collective memories are framed in these photographs and there is an evident nostalgia. The term nostalgia comes from the Greek for a painful longing (algia) to return home (nostos) . In spite of the wars, the destruction of their homes, the hatred of the people and government for non Muslims there is a yearning for the wonderful cold crisp air of Kabul, the snow, the food and most of all their way of life. In an article, “After loss what then?” Judith Butler investigates loss as a social, political, and aesthetic condition rather than as a psychological state. It is a trauma that afflicts collective rather than individual memory. Something was lost but no memory can retrieve it.


However, Gauri Gill has used in these photographs Max Weber’s Verstehen approach that involves understanding the object of enquiry, by means of empathy, intuition and imagination and has portrayed and preserved the identity of a very small group of people for whom there will never be holocaust museums or other learned works analysing the disappearance of the Sikhs from Afghanistan."


Excerpted from Pami Singh's review, 2014


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Installation views, Green Cardamom Gallery, London 2011 InstallInstallInstallInstallInstallInstallInstallInstallInstall


Kundan Singh. Yuba City, 2001.

Alok and Sumati Patel-Parekh.  Silicon Valley, California 2001

Archival pigment print. 27 x 40 inches.


The Future Infinitives


All over those bland, continuous
states, in ghettos amalgamated beyond
Sikh, Muslim, Hindu to one easy race-
name, South Asian, one umbrella brand,
Indian-American, in basement sublets, dorms,
mortgaged cookie cut homes
where god lights blare like truck horns,
coatless or bundled, hardhat headscarf
askew in cold sun, a mother and daughter
slaughter ready at the register, or that
man, rushed, clenched shut at Dunkin’ Donuts,
at  Apna Bazar Cash and Carry, on Roosevelt,
a food-fragrant driver of a yellow taxi,
those sisters, shy and not shy, rival
sports trophies and photos arrayed,
the dead one’s husband, emperor sized
bed against uncurtained white wife light,

empty house and he alone with remote,
& the priests of the convention cathedrals,

limp wrists extended over wine cocktails,
suits and flesh glossy in the gloaming,
wild glint of fossil fuel, DCs far domes
winking yellow, oh all over those blonde,
bland states, saying to Gauri’s camera,
It’s me, barefoot in the ballroom of the dream,
poised, posed, alone, almost American.

Jeet Thayil

The Americans (2000 - 2007)

"Nearly five decades after Robert Frank, Gauri Gill takes a series of solitary journeys through America traveling extensively from New York and New Jersey to California to the Midwest and five Southern states. She moves outward, from the nucleus of family and friends to their networks, through a map lined with the material and psychological presence of migrants. The resultant body of photographs. The Americans, emerges as a palimpsest that documents the new Americans – Indian immigrants. That Gill addresses her subjects with the transnational gaze of the traveling photographer brings her subject within the potent discourse of migration and diaspora, post-coloniality and the new world. Set in the chromatic intimacy of the candid photograph, it is inscribed by the material residue of two cultures, of the glittering flecks of Bollywood and Hollywood, the Indian and the American dream."


Excerpted from Gayatri Sinha's essay, New Delhi 2008


"Given Gill’s explicit invocation of Frank (apparent, as I’ve suggested at so many different levels), how should we understand the object of her critique? Does she intend to present Indo-Americans as part of a liberating counter-culture? Is she mounting a critique in part of a US consumerist dream that fails to deliver for most Indian-Americans? This seems implicit in a number of powerful images which take the viewer very close to the quotidian routines of low-paid manual work (for instance the moving diptych showing Laljibhai and Pushpa Patel cleaning the Days Inn West in Mississippi). But is she also mounting a critique from within of aspects of the Indic tradition, of targets such as religious orthodoxy, Bollywood and patriarchy? The display of cut-out victims from a benefit function for the subjects of domestic violence suggests this quite clearly. The serried ranks of Bollywood videos with peeling labels set alongside racks of salwarkameez may be intended to communicate the routinized repetitive actions of diaspora nostalgia. Or it may be intended to record its tenacity – its steadfastness, and endurance, in this new context. Such ambivalence, of course – and the power it gives the viewer to come to their own conclusions - is a considerable part of the power that Gauri Gill’s project offers. Like Robert Frank’s work, her images are not easily "selected and interpreted", but they speak of things that are there: "anywhere and everywhere"."


Excerpted from Christopher Pinney’s talk at Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago 2008


PDF of full text

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Installation views, Bose Pacia Gallery, New York 2009 Install Install

Installation views, Mississauga Central Library, Mississauga 2011 images images images images


Untitled, from Nizamuddin at Night .

Untitled, from Nizamuddin at Night

Silver gelatin print. Size variable.

Nizamuddin at Night (2005 - ongoing)

The photographer sometimes walks around in her neighborhood in New Delhi at night, with a camera, but without a flash or tripod.


"Gauri's intimately stark renditions of the area of Nizamuddin shot during the night time gave a beautiful gray-scale representation of winter in one of oldest areas of Delhi. Placed randomly across the still wet grey walls of the rooms the photos almost enacted a watery washed out collage rendering a psycho active tapestry of solitary socio-cultural glimpses of Nizamuddin. Charged with a prolific eye for the most visually self contained images from the vicinity Gauri's entire photo 'installation' assumed an appearance of a multi windowed black box with windows into a different space and time...very connected to the immediate area and yet completely ethereal in it's entirety."

Khoj Residency 2005


“I started to photograph my neighborhood in the year 2005. Returning home late at night, I would notice things that I didn’t in the day. Lit up by streetlights, houselights and moonlight, sometimes diffused by the rain and fog, Nizamuddin became another place. One of the first pictures I took was of a white van. Its precise location on the road, its mysterious alignment with the shadows imprinted on it, transformed it from an ordinary van into another creature altogether. It was as if I had passed through a door into another world.”

Gauri Gill 2007


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Gurgaon, 2004.

Gurgaon, 2004

Silver gelatin print. Size variable.

Becoming/Rememory (2003 - ongoing)

A series of urban landscapes which originated in 2003, in the semi-rural urban settlements and mofussil towns of Rajasthan, the work later grew to include cosmopolitan and vast urbanscapes like Mumbai and Delhi with their suburbs, satellite towns and far reaching influence. The photographs record in-between spaces and borders both on the periphery of, and within towns; spillovers, overlaps and 'encroachments' between the rural and the urban; and sites akin to what artists call ‘negative spaces’ (a compositional tool used in both two- and three-dimensional art work, it is the space between the active elements, or the space in which those elements are not present, yet that holds them in their place.) The photographs are sometimes made at night, or appear to be so, and are mainly absent of people. Yet they reflect the complex psychology of the city, concerning things made by the human hand and mind, and speaking to contesting aspirations and dreams. The creations range from those that have absorbed varied energies and often contradictory aesthetics to create hybrid and inventive new forms; to others that have traveled seamlessly from architects offices in global cities. The migrant workers who carry out these master plans lose traditional livelihoods and related ways of life. In this dystopian world, human beings are dislocated from familiar contexts and old homes, sometimes even their families, often without any safety nets, and rendered invisible in the new environments. Nature herself is bent to human will and desire, and new worlds emerge from the underlying capitalist order, as we continually aspire, desire, make and destroy.


"Gauri Gill constructs her images like a careful essayist, recording the urban metropolis in transition. In her urban landscapes her subject is the city in states of transition. In divesting her subject of people and colour, Gill sets up a psychological debate with her viewer, and investigation into the nature of desire and its uncertain outcome. Structures appear like accretions on the land, frequently silent, dark and forgiving. Against these, the pursuits of the metropolitan dream, nevertheless survives. When the interiors do reveal themselves, they bear marks of migrancy, aspiration and the imprint of the dream. Gauri places on the same scale of desire the interior of the pastry shop, and the anticipated wedding feast, the photo studio which feeds into masquerade and performance and the drawing rooms of middle class suburbia. We are looking from the outside into a (failed) utopia of demolished buildings, 'painted' scenes of happy domesticity.


Structurally, she is drawing on multiple photographic traditions, of the studio as a site for wish fulfilment, of the popular/vernacular tradition in India, as architectural structures as cultural readings, as documented in the work of Bernd and Hilla Becher. Of urban sites of the "quiet and the commonplace" and the vast city spaces of detritus and waste, as recorded in the work of Michael Ashkin. In this way, the work hovers between nostalgia and strange absences, the promise of pleasure and its exhausted satiation."


Excerpted from Gayatri Sinha's essay, 2007


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Installation views, Arsenale, Venice, 2019 Installation view, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 2 Installation view, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 3 Installation view, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 4 Installation view, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 5 Installation view, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 6 Installation view, Arsenale, Venice Biennale, 7