»Architectural interpretations accepted without reflection could obscure the search for signs of a true nature and a higher order.«

Louis Isadore Kahn

Blog Review

Transactional Objects

Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty’s Mumbai street-inspired artworks

  • Transactional Objects, Object 5: Caterpillar Library, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Plywood, Paint, 240x120x30cm. (All images: Courtesy Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty) 1 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 5: Caterpillar Library, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Plywood, Paint, 240x120x30cm. (All images: Courtesy Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty)
  • Left: Many transactional objects are also born out of and shaped by the unusual obsessions or trips of the city’s inhabitants. Right: Does everything turn into the future, or is the future just a trip of the present? 2 / 18  Left: Many transactional objects are also born out of and shaped by the unusual obsessions or trips of the city’s inhabitants. Right: Does everything turn into the future, or is the future just a trip of the present?
  • Transactional Objects, Object 6: Astrologer’s Chair, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, Plywood, 210x45x45cm. 3 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 6: Astrologer’s Chair, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, Plywood, 210x45x45cm.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 1: Poky Shop, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, 180cm diameter. 4 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 1: Poky Shop, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, 180cm diameter.
  • Left: Transactional objects enable people to respond to the many parameters the ever-transforming city throws at them. Right: Transactional objects are characterized by their multiple uses and claims – through which they blur boundaries. 5 / 18  Left: Transactional objects enable people to respond to the many parameters the ever-transforming city throws at them. Right: Transactional objects are characterized by their multiple uses and claims – through which they blur boundaries.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 2: Bench Ladder, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, Brass, Paint, 45x244x30cm. 6 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 2: Bench Ladder, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, Brass, Paint, 45x244x30cm.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 3: Treasure Trunk Bench, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Tin, Paint, 30x87x44cm. 7 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 3: Treasure Trunk Bench, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Tin, Paint, 30x87x44cm.
  • Left: Transactional spaces and objects are unique to particular cities and may appear unusual to an outsider. Right: Transactional objects are not just utilitarian; they are also usually quirky and absurd – instances of dreams taking shape. 8 / 18  Left: Transactional spaces and objects are unique to particular cities and may appear unusual to an outsider. Right: Transactional objects are not just utilitarian; they are also usually quirky and absurd – instances of dreams taking shape.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 4: Tool-box, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Plywood, Brass, Paint, 90x60x45cm. 9 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 4: Tool-box, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Plywood, Brass, Paint, 90x60x45cm.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 7: Shop Under Staircase, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, Rope, Brass, Paint, 244x236x90cm. 10 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 7: Shop Under Staircase, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Wood, Rope, Brass, Paint, 244x236x90cm.
  • Left: Boundaries get constantly made, erased and remade through numerous claims. Right: Transactional objects and practices often diffuse the differences set up by notions of public and private space and concepts of inside and outside space. 11 / 18  Left: Boundaries get constantly made, erased and remade through numerous claims. Right: Transactional objects and practices often diffuse the differences set up by notions of public and private space and concepts of inside and outside space.
  • On Lamington Road, it is often difficult to tell where one shop ends and the other begins, and everything along the edge of the street diffuses into a blurred space – a transactional space. 12 / 18  On Lamington Road, it is often difficult to tell where one shop ends and the other begins, and everything along the edge of the street diffuses into a blurred space – a transactional space.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 8: Basket Bed, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Cane, Cloth, 60cm deep, 114cm in diameter. 13 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 8: Basket Bed, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Cane, Cloth, 60cm deep, 114cm in diameter.
  • Porters using huge baskets to carry goods around on Lamington Road, sometimes use them as resting places too. 14 / 18  Porters using huge baskets to carry goods around on Lamington Road, sometimes use them as resting places too.
  • Transactional Objects, Object 9: One-foot Shop, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Plywood, Brass, 240x150x30cm. 15 / 18  Transactional Objects, Object 9: One-foot Shop, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Plywood, Brass, 240x150x30cm.
  • Left: When shut, the one-foot shops remain folded as a thin relief on the wall. But when they unfold and open, they spill their guts out to reveal the spaces within. Right: When the day shop shuts, the night shop takes over its closed shutters. 16 / 18  Left: When shut, the one-foot shops remain folded as a thin relief on the wall. But when they unfold and open, they spill their guts out to reveal the spaces within. Right: When the day shop shuts, the night shop takes over its closed shutters.
  • Examples of one-foot shops, actual “transactional” objects... 17 / 18  Examples of one-foot shops, actual “transactional” objects...
  • ...and selling structures, on the streets of Mumbai. Photographs from Gupte and Shetty's Mumbai field research. 18 / 18  ...and selling structures, on the streets of Mumbai. Photographs from Gupte and Shetty's Mumbai field research.

As part of their field studies on the streets of Mumbai, architects and urban researchers Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty looked at the ever-changing ad hoc objects, fashioned for retail display or tailored for other functions, that occupy the in-between spaces of the city. As Roshan Kumar Mogali reports, this research led to their art project Transactional Objects currently on show at the Venice Biennale, which explores imagined forms of such seemingly utilitarian objects, objects which also embody the hopes, dreams and social interactions defining people’s lives.

Lamington Road in Mumbai is known for shops that sell electronic goods and gadgetry. Tiny shops are crowded together along the pavements: even wall spaces between neighbouring outlets are rented out to other traders. These tiny one-foot wall shops, embedded a foot into the wall and projecting out a foot onto the pavement, are typical for Mumbai.

The one-foot shop, along with shops under staircases and other ingenious, compact temporary retail sites, were the inspiration behind urbanists and artists Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty’s work Transactional Objects at this year’s 56th Venice Biennale, curated by Okwui Enwezor. Their project explores the “unclear geographies, absurd lives, unstable forms and co-existing contradictions” of the perpetually changing city, and the production of what they term Transactional Objects – ad hoc retail display or storage structures fashioned for these in-between spaces, tailored to give them function.

“These objects are not just utilitarian, facilitating transactions”, say Gupte and Shetty: “They are quirky, erotic, sedimented and absurd. In their absurdity, they are instances of dreams trying to take shape and aspirations trying to get worked out. Transactional objects are not designed, they form themselves. And they change constantly because the city changes constantly.”

Gupte and Shetty observe several processes around these “transactional objects”: what they term “settling”, “tripping” and “blurring”. “Tripping” refers to the very specific needs, desires and obsessions driving different people on the street, “settling” refers to the process by which “people come to terms with each other” – in which Gupte and Shetty see these objects as key players, creating threshold spaces and structures for people to engage with each other.

Transactional Objects, Object 3: Treasure Trunk Bench, Rupali Gupte and Prasad Shetty, 2015, Tin, Paint, 30x87x44cm.

Through these objects, spaces in the city and their use also get textured and transformed, often diffusing differences between public and private space, between urban property rights and boundaries and between notions of inside and outside space – all the ideas that usually define spaces and buildings in a city through clear demarcations. This they describe as a process of blurring. “This diffusion produces a blurred form of the city, where boundaries get constantly made, erased and remade through numerous claims. The morphing of building envelopes, the mutations in plot shapes and diffusion of edges constitutes the blur. The logic of the city, its enterprise, property relationships, and much of life gets worked out in this blur.”

On Lamington Road, where it is often difficult to tell where one shop ends and another begins, everything along the edge of the street including customers and shop-owners diffuse into this blurred space – a transactional space – that allows a multitude of activities to take place.

In the exhibition Transactional Objects, the objects on display are Gupte and Shetty’s speculations on the next transformation that some of these street objects might go through, their next metamorphosis to reflect the ever-changing city around them. As such they seem to be arguing against any utopian or apocalyptic imagining of the future, instead presenting an equally powerful but nuanced view of how a city – and its use – develops through incremental change.

– Roshan Kumar Mogali is a writer, journalist and editor from Pune, India. He has previously worked at Domus India.

Transactional Objects
Until November 22, 2015
All The World’s Futures
The 56th International Art Exhibition
Arsenale, Castello
Venice, Italy

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