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Untitled (Woman in Blue Weeping)

Sutapa Biswas
1996
14 mins 20 secs colour video
back projection

Untitled (Woman in Blue Weeping)

Untitled (Woman in Blue Weeping) gains its title in part from a painting by Johannes Vermeer entitled Woman in Blue Reading a Letter (c.1662-63) which perhaps explains why aesthetically there are resonances within Biswas' video work that reference Vermeer's painting.

In Biswas' Untitled (Woman in Blue Weeping), we encounter a woman in her mid-forties sitting at a table on which there is in front of her, a cup and saucer, looking out towards the camera. She is dressed in a blue shirt, and as the work unfolds, we see the woman cry in real time, slowly and un-dramatically. Finally when she stops crying she picks up the teacup to take a sip of tea, shortly after which her image fades out, only to begin soon after again. There is no sound track, so the woman cries in silence. This repetition is disturbing, and places the viewer in a position where they are merely observers to an act, redundant and unable to offer neither consolation nor comfort.

As a work, Untitled (Woman in Blue Weeping) was originally exhibited as a video installation projected no more than the size of a small paper back book on to a frosted glass panel belonging to the Beadle's box at University College, London that overlooks the glass box (of similar dimensions) carrying the preserved remains of Jeremy Bentham (the philosopher and architect of the panoptican). In situ, the crying woman in Biswas' projected video cast an even smaller reflection of herself onto the front window of Bentham's glass box. This doubling of images and spaces (here the weeping woman), is a recurring presence in Biswas' work.

In a later incarnation, Untitled (Woman in Blue Weeping) was exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2001), as a single small back projection from within the gallery wall onto plexi-glass installed perfectly flush with the wall. This time the projected image though small, emanated an almost 'mist-like' presence within the gallery space, as the female character cried into an empty room.

''We stand neither one side nor the other but on the invisible meridian, on the border where the light flowing in and the light flowing out meet, and distort one another…Biswas intentionally gives her audience no direction. She does not tell us where to stand, or walk, or how to decide. She poses the question. 'Two Places at once, was it, or one place twice?'"
Ian Baucom, 'Two Places at Once, or the Same Place Twice: The Art of Sutapa Biswas', in Sutapa Biswas, published by the Institute of International Visual Art, London, and the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland Oregon, 2004, p.64

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