Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji : While I Sleep
Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji
While I Sleep
Valérie Abrial, March 2, 2009
As part of its exhibition/experiment, Le Laboratoire has invited the Indian artist Shilpa Gupta to explore a universal theme: FEAR. A theme unfortunately most present indeed given the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai. This project, prepared with the psychologist Mahzarin Banaji (Harvard professor) explores the power of images as expressed by the behavior of individuals. Is it possible that our fears are influenced by our genetic roots via images?

While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage
While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage


Living in Mumbai, Shilpa Gupta is directly confronted with the issue of terrorism whose main target consists in a huge number of innocent people of mixed origins and religions. Her daily life, marked by acts of terrorism between Hindus and Muslims very soon oriented her work to ques¬tions and themes omnipresent in today’s life. Anguish, depression, fear… hallmarks of 21st-century societies and cultures. A study of these col¬lective phenomena reveals scientific and social themes. Le Laboratoire decided to step in as a catalyst with the result consisting in an artistic work on the frontier of scientific research.

While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage
While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage


The power of images

Shilpa Gupta’s work probes cultural globalization, by means of universal themes such as religion, race, the perception of reality… and now, anxiety. The artist explores the impact of images on our modes of thinking. Can some images be of such power that they lead us to modify our interpretation of reality? In this respect, Shilpa Gupta echoes recent conclusions of philosopher and linguist Noam Chomsky pointing to the power of the media on public opinion. Invited to participate in Le Laboratoire exhibition, Noam Chomsky suggested replies to Shilpa Gupta’s questions regarding the influence of the media in terms of the power of images and words.


While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage
While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage


The power prejudice

Echoing Shilpa Gupta’s artistic proposal, the work done by the neuropsychiatrist Mahzarin Banaji explores the subconscious thoughts of individuals. What can be said of our prejudices and of social and biological factors that influence our modes of thought? Placed against a backdrop of terrorism, such as in India at the current time, does being Muslim or Hindu have an impact on the mechanisms of fear? Can we consider fear as an expression of involuntary perceptions of our biological system?


While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage
While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage


Mahzarin Banaji who has been studying implicit beliefs and behaviors for the past two decades has, in collaboration with two other psychology professors (Brian Nosek - University of Virginia; Anthony Greenwald - University of Washington) developed the Implicit Association Test. The IAT is a tool to learn more about feelings and thoughts that cannot be consciously controlled. In reality, each individual has biases impacting his or her way of looking at the world. But does this necessarily mean that we are not masters of our own thoughts? By fusing their fields of interest, Shilpa Gupta and Mahzarin Banaji explore a series of questions about the subconscious and reflexes that characterizes us. Is our reaction to an image associated with the word inducing fear actually grounded in reality or in prejudices emerging from our ge¬netic origins?

While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage
While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage


The Artscience Experiment

The artist and the scientist have created special Implicit Association Tests for people coming to Le Laboratoire. The genesis of this Artscience experiment was developed in close collaboration with the Cloud Foundation teams and young people in Boston (see page 3). Specifically, IATs were run on twins (homozygotes and heterozygotes), brothers and sisters, friends, and individuals with no share ge¬netic links. By studying the reactions of these “test subjects” to words and images chosen for the feeling of fear that they generate, Shilpa Gupta and Mahzarin Banaji were able to observe the prejudices respon¬sible for the feelings of fear generated in the subjects.

The artist used data gleaned from this participative experiment to create the sound and visual installations she presents in Le Laboratoire.


While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage
While I Sleep by Shilpa Gupta & Mahzarin Banaji/Marc Domage


Shilpa Gupta Bio_Express

Gupta creates artwork using interactive video, websites, photographs, objects, sound, and puÂblic performances to probe and examine subversively such themes as desire, religion, notions of secu¬rity on the street and on the imagined border. In 2008 she had her first monograph show ‘BlindStars StarsBlind’ which was shown in Mum¬bai across the two galleries of Bodhi and in Germany at Galerie Volker Diehl and BodhiBerÂlin. Her work was in Gwangju Biennale, directed by Okwui Enwezor and curated by Ranjit Hoskote; and the Yokohama Triennale, curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist. In the same year Yvon Lambert Paris showed Gupta’s work in the Frieze and Fiac art fairs and her work will be shown at the Mori Museum in Tokyo, Serpentine Gallery in London and Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon.


Shilpa Gupta
Shilpa Gupta


Earlier she has shown at Tate Modern in London, National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai and Delhi, Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Torino, Daimler Chrysler ContempoÂrary in Ber¬lin, ICC in Tokyo, Queens Museum in New York, Tamayo Museum in Mexico City and Chicago Cultural Center amongst other institutions. In 2007 she was commissioned new work for the permanent collection at the Museum of Contem¬porary Art – Val De Marne in France and her work has been shown at the ‘Lyon Biennale 07’ and earlier in ‘Zones of Contact – Biennale of Sydney’ curated by Charles Me¬rewether and ‘Liverpool Biennale’ curated by Gerardo Mosquera.

She has had solo show in New Delhi, Mumbai, New York and Sydney and participated in Asian Art Triennales in Manchester and Fukuoka and Biennales in Havana, Shanghai, Seville and the Media City Seoul Biennale Gupta has received the Transmediale 2004 Award, Berlin and Sanskriti Prathisthan Award, New Delhi.


Mahzarin Banaji
Mahzarin Banaji


Mahzarin Rustum Banaji Bio_Express

Mahzarin Rustum Banaji was born and raised in India, in the town of Secunderabad, where she attended St. Ann’s High School. Her B.A. is from Nizam College and her M.A. in Psychology from Osmania University in Hyderabad. She received her Ph.D. from Ohio State University (1986), and was an NIH postdoctoral fellow at University of Washington.  From 1986-2001 she taught at Yale University where she was Reuben Post Halleck Professor of Psychology. In 2001 she moved to Harvard University as Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics in the Department of Psychology and Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Insti¬tute for Advanced Study.

Banaji is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Psychological Association (Divisions 1, 3, 8 and 9), and the Association for Psychological Science. She served as Secretary of the APS, on the Board of Scientific Affairs of the APA, and on the Executive Committee of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology. She was elected fellow of the Society for Experimental Psychologists in 2005, to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2008 and as Herbert A. Simon Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science in 2009.

Banaji has served as Associate Editor of Psychological Review and the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and co-edited Essays in Social Psychology. She currently serves on an advisory board of the Oxford University Press on Social Cognition and Social Neuroscience. She serves on the editorial board of several journals, among them Psychological Science, Psychological Review, Perspectives on Psychological Science, Brain and Behavioral Sciences, Social Cognition, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, and Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Third Millennium Foundation.

Banaji was Director of Undergraduate Studies at Yale, and is currently Head Tutor in the Depart¬ment of Psychology at Harvard. She chaired APS’s Task force on Dissemination of Psychological Science, and served on the Board of Scientific Affairs of the APA as well as on its Committee on the Conduct of Internet Research.  Among her awards, she has received Yale’s Lex Hixon Prize for Teaching Excellence, a James Mc¬Keen Cattell Fund Award, the Morton Deutsch Award for Social Justice, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. In 2000, her work with R. Bhaskar received the Gordon Allport Prize for Intergroup Relations. Her career contributions have been recognized by a Presidential Citation from the American Psy¬chological Association in 2007 and the Diener Award for Outstanding Contributions to Social Psychology in 2009.

With Anthony Greenwald and Brian Nosek, she maintains an educational website designed to create awareness about unconscious biases in self-professed egalitarians. It can be reached at www.implicit.harvard.edu, and details of her research may be found at www.people.fas.harvard.edu/~banaji. Banaji studies human thinking and feeling as it unfolds in social contexts. Her focus is primarily on mental systems that operate in implicit or unconscious mode. In particular, she is interested in the unconscious nature of assessments of self and other humans that reflect feelings and knowledge (often unintended) about their social group membership (e.g., age, race/ethnicity, gender, class) that underlie the Us/Them distinction.

From such study of attitudes and beliefs of adults and children, she asks about the social consequences of unconscious thought and feeling. Banaji’s work relies on cognitive/affective behavioral measures and neuroimaging (FMRI) with which she explores the implications of her work for questions of individual responsibility and social justice in democratic societies.

www.lelaboratoire.org