A museum piece

Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 2, based on Mahatma Gandhi’s famous salt speech, enters The Art Gallery of New South Wales.

On 12 March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi gave a historic speech that marked the beginning of his Salt March in which he walked 390 kilometres to the coastal town of Dandi in Gujarat. There he gathered salt, refusing to pay the tax imposed by the colonial British Government and therefore breaking the law. The non-violent protest inspired nationwide civil disobedience leading to an intensified Indian independence movement.

In “Public Notice 2”, which is on view at The Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in Sydney, artist Jitish Kallat renders this remarkable speech. Each letter appears to be made from bone, as if he has unearthed them from their historical resting place. “In today’s terror-infested world, where wars on terror – which is in itself an oxymoron – are fought at prime television time, voices such as Gandhi’s stare back at us like discarded relics, serving as a device for self-reflection.,” says the artist explaining his inspiration.

Fulfilling his duties as the director of Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, Jitish was away from his studio for almost 16 months. This is his second museum solo in Australia, the previous one being at the Ian Pottern Museum in Melbourne in 2012. The museum has also published a book with contributions from Berlin-based art historian David Elliott, Quddus Mirza, Head of Fine Arts, National College of Arts, Lahore, Canberra-based art historian and curator Chaitanya Sambrani curator of the exhibition Suhanya Raffel.

“Public Notice 2’ will enter the AGNSW museum collection via a generous gift from Brian and Gene Sherman. The piece was in their collection – The Gene & Brian Sherman Contemporary Asian Art Collection – (also exhibited at the museum as a group show titled Go East) for the past few years and they are kindly donating it to the museum’s collection,” adds Jitish.

The book isn’t restricted to “Public Notice 2” but also takes a substantial look at his earlier works like “Public Notice” (2003) which is currently being shown at the Queens Museum in New York. This book follows another major book that Yale University Press had published on Kallat’s work “Public Notice 3” in 2011 containing essays by the likes of Homi Bhabha, James Cuno, Geeta Kapur, James Rondeau, and Jeremy Strick. Like in “Public Notice 2”, in “Public Notice 3”, the contemporary artist based his work on a famous speech. He had chosen Swami Vivekananda’s speech to the World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 for the work.

In today’s terror-infested world, where wars against terror are fought at prime television time, voices such as Gandhi’s stare back at us like discarded relics.

Recommended for you