Thursday, September 30, 2010

Powerful Political Art - - Jitish Kallat's "Public Notice 3" at the Art Institute of Chicago

A new site-specific installation has opened at the Art Institute of Chicago, Jitish Kallat's "Public Notice 3". Briefly, it is the text of a speech given at the Art Institute on September 11, 1893, on the topic of religious freedom and co-existence. The text is displayed in LED lights, using the Homeland Security terror threat colors, on the risers of the Grand Staircase. The speech was delivered by Swami Vivekananda in Fullerton Hall, next to the stairs. (I am a volunteer at the museum and routinely people ask how to find the plaque commemorating this event).

This installation is superb. It is insightful and critical without being condescending. The colorful lights draw you in, then terrify you with their intended meaning. The words are sweet and also seem to be lost on the most powerful players in the current "war on terror".

A point of the original speech was that there are many paths, equally good, that can lead us to positive spiritual development. The installation is on a staircase that can be approached in two ways from the ground floor and exited in four locations on the second floor. The text can be read no matter which way one travels up the stairs. Stupendous.


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