An exhibition has been running for a few months at the Barbican, showing a selection of works by the Mumbai-based artist Shilpa Gupta.

The display opens with something most travel nerds will love — a couple of old motion flapboards — or Solari displays — that were a mainstay of train stations and airports.

This time they’re not telling when and where to catch a train, but flipping messages repeatedly as you walk past. It’s an oddly comforting sound that triggers a lot of nostalgia in this writer of a certain age.

About a third of the Curve is filled with a cluster of objects of average interest.

Visually and audibly, it’s the end of the exhibition, in a dark space filled with 100 old microphones suspended above 100 metal spikes, and on each spike is poetry from a writer who had been incarcerated for their work, writings, or beliefs. Alternating between languages, the work includes poetry from the 8th to the 21st centuries. It’s nigh on impossible to read the poetry in the darkness, and the audio that’s played from hidden speakers seems to be the poetry, but it’s rather muffled.

So, as a display that conveys an important message of the freedom of the written word, it rather fails, as you’d have no idea what it’s about unless you read up about it — but aesthetically, it’s clever.

It’s an exhibition that opens and closes with sound and light, and maybe I missed something, but it’s OK, interesting even, but not particularly exciting.

It is however free to visit, so if in the area, worth visiting, if only to see the hanging Solari boards.

The exhibition, Shilpa Gupta Sun at Night is at the Barbican until 6th February. Entry is free and you don’t need to book tickets.

Exhibition Rating


Barbican Centre
Silk Street, London


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  1. JB says:

    Are there any videos of the Waterloo solari boards do you know?

    • JP says:

      I looked for you and got close…
      But forty minutes later I’m still reeling (sorry) from the amazing world of build your own “split flap” sites. Too many to link but there are several which engendered me squealing “I want one now!”

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