A person’s surname is, for better or worse, closely tied to how they are identified as an individual. “When you fill in a form, the first thing that you are asked for is your surname,” Gupta has noted. The surname is an association that individuals must carry with them, but sometimes it becomes a burden. Gupta’s project features one hundred individuals—only a fraction of who appear in the selection of clusters shown here—who have changed their surnames for any number of reasons, whether political, familial, or emotional. (Snatches of their explanations for their decisions can be found in the short texts within the work.) Gupta represents each person through a framed picture that has been sliced in two. The pieces are positioned near enough to their mates that viewers can find and understand the whole image, but they’re also read as partial, alluding perhaps to the divided fragments that make up any individual’s life.
In the surname project, the artist collected hundred stories spanning the past few centuries and different geographies of instances when people felt restrained by their very first identity, their name and chose to discard it for a new one. Be it for a political reason, or for the sake of a new job.
- Lucy Gallun, MOMA