Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Deciphering Jitish Kallat’s 'Public Notice 2' , ‘Eruda’ and ‘Annexe’

Colossal in scale, Jitish Kallat’s (Black lead on fiberglass) portrays a young boy selling books at traffic signals. The subject of the work, dressed in flimsy fabric pants cut below the knee, holds tablets of various sizes in each hand. His feet rooted to the spot by his lead shoes are so shaped that they resemble houses leave a haunting impression. The sculpture - a solitary figure – monumentalizes the poverty permeating the Indian population.

Like ‘Eruda’, his ‘Annexe’ (black lead, fiberglass, stainless steel base), is again about a young child! His upstanding posture exhibits a fierce determination to survive. A heavy serpentine rope weighs over the boy’s shoulder. Gripped in the left (and less forceful) hand, it’s used as a whip to lash himself, while o seeking alms. Treated in black lead, ‘Annexe’ literally tarnishes those who touch him. His glistening body on a stainless steel base with a drain represents a societal gulf between the perceived stain of real poverty and the veneer of wealth.

Jitish Kallat’s another significant work 'Public Notice 2' (2007) links up with 'Detergent' (2004) and 'Public Notice' (2003), wherein a historical speech is constructed as the central armature. Blurred and often forgotten with the passage of time, the historical words are fore-grounded. The speech is held up as an apparatus for the purpose of grading our feats as well as follies as nations, and also as humankind.

The monumental work recalls Mahatma Gandhi’s historic speech on the eve of the Dandi Salt March in early 1930. The march was in protest against the salt tax and in order to highlight the country’s need for greater self-reliance. In it, the Mahatma’s fervent speech is dissected and recreated as a haunting installation at a key point in India’s history. Around 4,500 gaunt-looking bones individually shaped make up its each word. They are positioned on thin colored shelves to attain effect of a rediscovered artifact, suggesting as if Gandhi’s voice returns, akin to a relic from the past, to call for peace and harmony.

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