New Delhi: On March 12, 1930, Mahatma Gandhi delivered his legendary address on the sands of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad to mark the beginning of the Salt March. These powerful words have taken sculptural form in the work of Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat and are being exhibited at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) in Sydney, reinforcing its potency and importance in our complex present day existence.

After successfully donning the curatorial hat for Kochi Biennale 2014 and having recently closed the 108-day long exhibition, Kallat is back with a major solo exhibition titled “Public Notice 2” at AGNSW, one of Australia’s premier museums. 

One could say that this mammoth 180-foot-long installation is more than a solo exhibition by a contemporary artist. It is a compelling appeal to recollect the momentous historical utterances that inspired nationwide civil disobedience, a pivotal moment in the Indian Independence movement.

“The piece could be described as a deliberation on insights enshrined in words spoken at a moment of heightened strife. Gandhi’s twinned appeal to maintain total non-violence with complete non-cooperation could, in today’s world, once again serve as a device for self-reflection and self-restraint,” Kalat tolds IANS in an email interview.

Against a glowing yellow backdrop, the historic address is cast, letter by letter, in bone-like formations, powerfully representing the words that had a tremendous impact beyond South Asia by shaping the world-views of figures like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. 

“The speech, rendered like bone-relics, carries within it several themes that may aid our ailing world plagued with aggression,” Kallat said. 

This installation is a part of “Go East: The Gene & Brian Sherman Collection”, and Kallat’s contemporary masterpiece has been generously gifted to AGNSW by the Shermans, Sydney’s leading art philanthropists who had acquired the installation in 2011.

In Kallat’s oeuvre, “Public Notice 2” is one of the three works in a suite of pieces that refer to a historical speech. Kallat made this first in the series in 2003 wherein the “Tryst with Destiny” address of India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, is “hand inscribed on mirror with an inflammable adhesive and set aflame as if cremating the speech”. This work is currently on view at the Queen’s Museum in New York until June 28.

“Public Notice 3” in 2010-11 was an overlay of dates and contexts that are 108 years apart.

“The exhibition opened at the Art Institute of Chicago on September 11, 2010 re-staging the words spoken by Swami Vivekananda at the ‘First Parliament of Religions’ on September 11,1893 in the very same building. In 1893 the museum was the auditorium where the parliament took place,” Kallat said.

The exhibition “Public Notice 2” at AGNSW closes on October 1.

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