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It is usual for Jitish Kallat's works to draw attention. But this time, the renowned artist has used his latest piece of art to address a rather sensitive issue — the evolution and devolution of religious tolerance in the post 9/11 world. The contemporary Indian artist's latest site-specific installation art, Public Notice 3, at the The Art Institute of Chicago, US, is based on the landmark speech delivered by Swami Vivekananda, at the Parliament of Religions, that was held in conjunction with World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago on September 11, 1893. The art, installed at the staircase of museum's Fullerton Hall — the actual location where Vivekananda delivered the speech 108 years ago, will be inaugurated on September 11 this year.
"After the 9/11 attacks, everyone was paranoid, especially towards religion. Intolerance was at its peak. The date of the attacks became a symbol of fear, and people drew ridiculous meaning out of it. Amidst the chaos, I decided to find a positive meaning of it all. Upon looking back into history, I discovered this speech, ironically delivered on the same date as the biggest terror attack on the US. It's one of the first presentations on Hinduism made to a Western audience and hence, a symbol of religious tolerance," says Kallat.
The installation — curated by Madhuvanti Ghose, the Marilynn Alsdorf Curator of Indian and Islamic Art at the Art Insititute of Chicago — is not just relevant historically but is also one of the first major presentation of Indian contemporary art in an American museum. It is a colourful display of the speech's text, which is illuminated by 68,700 bulbs. The text is converted to LED and is displayed on each of the 118 risers of the museum's Grand Staircase. The text's colours — red, orange, yellow, blue and green — represent the alert system of the US Department of Homeland Security, and stir up a satire on the security paranoia.
Speeches of historic relevance have been Kallat's muse since 2003. His previous installation — Public Notice — was based on the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru's famous Independence speech and Public Notice 2 revisits Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi March speech.
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