This essay originally appeared in Reframed, the Art in America newsletter about about art that surprises us, about the works that get us worked up. Sign up here to receive it every Thursday.

“I was walking on the street. A car stopped, a few men stepped out, and pushed into my mouth, a liquid. The mouth froze.”

Those haunting words open two New York shows devoted to Shilpa Gupta, a Mumbai-based artist who has taken over Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in Chelsea as well as Amant, a non-profit space in Brooklyn. The text is etched into a brass plate hung next to a small sculpture—a cast of an open mouth made with gunmetal—suspended from the wall. The intriguing form lends the words more impact, especially the final three: “The mouth froze.” “The mouth froze!” “THE MOUTH FROZE!”

I felt estranged from my own mouth as I read that phrase, puzzled over the enigma of a first-person reference to “the mouth” (rather than “my mouth”). But I found the phrasing perfect for a pair of shows focused on literal and figurative voices and the many ways they can be both erased and amplified. In Listening Air (2019–2023), the central work in the Tanya Bonakdar show, a sound installation features microphones dangling and slowly spinning in a darkened room while broadcasting recordings of work songs and different kinds of folk and protest music from around the world. Voices resound from India, China, North Korea, Lebanon, Italy, and the American South (the last one recognizable from the refrain “we shall overcome”). The artist reverse-wired the microphones, transforming them into speakers for playback rather than receivers of sounds.

Upstairs, an array of wooden shelves is lined with glass bottles that might appear empty but are filled, in a sense, with Gupta’s voice: the artist says she recited poetry into these vessels, selecting works by writers who have been imprisoned for their words. The work is silent, but the voices conjured within it are palpable—and accompanied by a kind of catalytic clamor courtesy of Song of the Ground (2017), a nearby work that features two rocks banging into one another by way of a mechanical contraption. The stones are from a porous borderland area between India and Bangladesh, where conceptions of boundaries break down.

A standout at Amant—a mini-retrospective of sorts, with works dating as far back as 2012—is an untitled installation from this year in which Gupta revisits the reverse-wired-microphone apparatus, with a mic-speaker intoning the names of detained and incarcerated poets. Meanwhile, For, In Your Tongue, I Cannot Fit (2023) fills a room with vitrines displaying sculptural casts (in gunmetal, again) of books by those same poets bearing titles such as We Can’t Hear Ourselves, No One Hears Us and Two Silences Made a Voice.

That notion of a voice made by silence is one that Gupta seems to both appreciate and abhor, and her work is all the better for the tension between the political stakes it engages and the personal resilience it memorializes. Gupta refuses the idea of silence as an absolute state, and shows how voices persist in defiance of forces that might suppress them.