Gandhi's words brought to light

May 18, 2012, 07:02 IST | Surekha S

Artist Jitesh Kallat's latest work uses the historical peace appeal made by Gandhi in 1939 to Hitler. The artist on the lighting installation that will be showcased at Arsenale 2012, the inaugural biennale contemporary art exhibition in Ukraine

‘It is quite clear that you are today the one person in the world who can prevent a war which may reduce humanity to a savage state. Must you pay that price for an object however worthy it may appear to you to be? Will you listen to the appeal of one who has deliberately shunned the method of war not without considerable success?’

A working shot of ‘Covering Letter’, projected on a fog screen

These words are taken from a letter written in 1939 by the ambassador of the non-violent resistance movement in India, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, to the man who is viewed as being responsible for the murders of six million Jews during World War II, Adolf Hitler.

“It is an effort by a man, who was perhaps the biggest proponent of peace to, possibly, the most violent man that ever lived,” says Kallat, who is taking the peace appeal to the inaugural International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Ukraine titled, Arsenale 2012.

“I have revisited a seven-sentence letter that is of tremendous historical and philosophical value,” adds the artist, who is one of the 100 chosen international contemporary artists who will exhibit their works at the exhibition.

“The letter will appear as a film of light and people can walk through it touching Gandhi’s words,” explains the artist, adding that there will be a standing projection, ascending from the bottom like a looped scroll.

This is not the first time that Kallat has revisited a historical moment for his works. In his solo show titled Public Notice 3, the artist highlighted the first Parliament of Religions that took place on September 11, 1893. The exhibition was displayed at The Art Institute of Chicago for an entire year.

It was in 2007 that Kallat was first struck by the idea of doing a work on the historical letter. “I came across the letter, while working on Public Notice 2, which is based on the speech that Gandhi gave before the Dandi March,” he says, adding, “It took two years for the piece to be conceived.”

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