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Jitish Kallat: Covering Letter

November 13, 2016–March 5, 2017

Experience a powerful work featuring a letter from Gandhi to Hitler.

Covering Letter is an immersive installation and video projection by Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat. Projected onto a traversable curtain of cascading fog, this work presents a historical letter by Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler, written just weeks before the start of World War II. In the spirit of his doctrine of universal friendship, Gandhi begins the letter with the greeting "Dear friend." Mist diffuses Gandhi's projected text, echoing the fate of his message, which went unheeded.

Jitish Kallat describes this correspondence as a plea from a great advocate of peace to one of the most violent individuals who ever lived. It is equally an open invitation for self-reflection, as its scrolling words speak to the extreme violence in the world today.

Kallat's interest in remediating history through the actions and words of historical figures aligns Covering Letter with his earlier work. In his Public Notice series, Kallat staged sculptural and interactive interventions that similarly appropriated texts by Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru (India's first prime minister), and Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda. In revisiting these historical documents, Kallat calls attention to the possibilities of peace and tolerance in a world plagued by violence, control, and surveillance.

Jitish Kallat: Covering Letter is the first exhibition of this work in the United States. It also marks the tenth anniversary of the Museum's Live Cinema series, which is dedicated to exploring the vast production of contemporary video and film work.

About Live Cinema

Live Cinema explores video and film work by a diverse group of local, national, and international artists. In recent decades an ever-increasing number of artists have appropriated these mediums in a dialogue with the early video and Super 8 practices of the 1960s and the tradition of experimental filmmaking. Each program of the Live Cinema series focuses on a specific aspect of this work in order to both map and analyze this important facet of contemporary art.

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About the Artist

Born in Mumbai, India, in 1974, Jitish Kallat currently lives in Mumbai. His body of work is vast, spanning painting, photography, drawing, video, and sculptural installations. Some of his works meditate on the transient present, while others reach deep into the past to call upon significant historical moments.

Kallat's work has been exhibited and collected widely in public institutions and private collections. Recent solo exhibitions include Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai (2016); the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2015); the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne (2012); the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum (2011); and the Art Institute of Chicago (2010).

Kallat has also exhibited work in numerous group shows, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney (2016); the Museum Tinguely, Basel, Switzerland (2011); the Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, and the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (both 2008); the Center for Art and Media (ZKM), Karlsruhe, Germany, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (both 2007); and the Tate Modern, London (2001).

In addition to participating in a number of international exhibitions, including the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2006) and the Havana Biennial, Cuba (2000), Kallat was the curator and artistic director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014).

Jitish Kallat. Photograph by Mohammed Roshan

Jitish Kallat. Photograph by Mohammed Roshan.


Jitish Kallat: Covering Letter is made possible by The Pamela and Ajay Raju Foundation.


Amanda Sroka, Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art

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