Redacted: Shanti Grumbine in the StudioSeptember 21, 2015
“I want a transformation to happen,” Shanti Grumbine says. “I want someone to know what they’re looking at but also not know what they’re looking at.”
Shanti, WSW’s Ora Schneider resident, deals with the familiar. She works with newspapers and advertisements, things we see every single day, and transforms them into something completely foreign. Using an X-ACTO knife and an electric eraser, Shanti removes lines of text and images from the New York Times. She creates empty pages which either stand on their own as complete pieces or are used as stencils for printmaking in the Silkscreen Studio. By removing and fracturing text and image from pages of the newspaper, Shanti creates space for what has been lost in the translation of experience into words.
After taking a hiatus from making her art due to illness that made reading and retaining information very overwhelming, Shanti began to physically erase and cut what she read every day: the daily paper. “In our modern world we’re constantly inundated with new information,” Shanti says. “And I decided that if I can’t take in that information, then I’m going to get rid of it.”
Shanti—who was raised on the New York Times—is interested in the form of the newspaper itself, and she pushes it to its limits, dismantling its physical structure as a way to dismantle its ideological structure. The ritualistic repetition of cuts in such a fragile material is meditative; every careful, precise mark that Shanti makes is present. This physicality is readily accessible to the viewer, in a way that the lived experience of the newspaper articles and photos is not.
“The newspaper is in your private space, but you’re witnessing something public, you’re taking part in something universal,” Shanti says. “I’m inviting the viewer into that intimate space.”
Shanti lays her cut pages over enlarged, silkscreened images that depict global tragedies occurring in far away places like Syria and Palestine. The layered, redacted pages resemble venetian blinds, allowing the viewer only limited access to the image. This acts as a symbol for bias on the part of the viewer and the reporter, our personal beliefs preventing us from seeing the whole picture. By covering these scenes, Shanti creates a distance from these tragic events, showing our inability to understand that kind of suffering. Shanti’s redacted pages become a space for those unheard voices, the censored and ignored.
“I’m creating a heightened awareness of what it means to be a reader of journalistic content,” Shanti says.
Within her dissected pages, Shanti adds ghosts of old advertisements that she’d been collecting for years. She physically erases into the images to remove the branding and then silkscreens the image with inverted colors to create haunting white figures on a black background. It resembles an x-ray image, the work investigating something beneath the surface. By drawing attention to these peripheral, non-news images taking up physical space on the page, Shanti draws into question the value systems and power dynamics at play in our daily sources of news.
Shanti repurposes advertisements, removes text, and blurs imagery, all as a way to think critically about what kind of information we are receiving and how we receive it. “I empty things out as a way to look at things more closely,” Shanti says.
Shanti Grumbine is an artist based in New Paltz, NY working with mixed print media and silkscreen. She has a BFA from School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA from University of Pennsylvania. Her work has been shown at various New York galleries. You can see more of Shanti’s work at shantigrumbine.com and see more images of her residency on Flickr.