Stars and Strifes
Yesterday marked the 69th anniversary of D-Day and the beginning of "Operation Overlord," which would lead to the liberation of Normandy and the eventual defeat of Nazi Germany. Remembered as a moment of both tremendous human loss and heroic strategic victory, the day inhabits a conflicted space in our cultural memory. It is so very many things but, first and foremost, D-Day represents a dense geographic and temporal point in which ideological divisions of man violently collided in the form of physical conflict.
Reflecting on this day and its significance, I found Shilpa Gupta's 2012 work, Stars on Flags of the World (on display at Art Basel 2013), particularly powerful. Gupta's understated display essentializes that mode of patriotic imagery which is arguably representative in itself of the notion of tradition: the national flag. However, in Stars on Flags of the World, fabric is abandoned and delineating colors are eschewed; the stars of national flags remain but, cut from rigid steel, they lie in a lifeless pile.
Gupta's work offers a firm and quiet gesture that points to mankind's segregation of itself through the invention of nationhood. It echoes with questions of citizenship, conflict, and the ways in which we give agency to our intangible differences. With regard to the anniversary of D-Day, I find that it holds a special resonance.