It's not every day that an artist is offered the liberty to move vitrines around a museum. To make the most of his opportunity, Jitish Kallat visited the Dr Bhau Daji Lad museum regularly to understand how to utilise the space to its optimum. Some of them, like the Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet are existing pieces, tweaked to suit the mood.
Ask Jitish Kallat if he considers his latest exhibition space unusual and pat comes the reply: “Not at all. It’s rich and layered, unlike an antiseptic white gallery.” Yesterday is a five-month project, wherein Kallat, with curator Tasneem Mehta, has placed his works across the Bhau Daji Lad museum, blending in with existing collections, architecture and library.
The artist adds, “I’m interested in the larger context of the museum,” he explains, citing his work, Public Notice 3, currently on display at The Art Institute of Chicago. It consists of LED displays of text from Swami Vivekananda’s speech at the First World Parliament of Religions in 1893.
Closer home, Fieldnotes emerges from the same idea. “I want to draw attention to the museum and its collection, add another layer of meaning to it. Some of the works have to be searched for because they have been placed as extensions to the architecture, and don’t appear different from the museum’s own narrative.”
The museum’s display of the founding fathers’ vision for the city contrasts with Kallat’s portrayal of its citizens’ daily travails. And how does he plan to continue? “Let’s see, it’ll be a slow process. Today, I drove by the museum, but I didn’t go inside, just to maintain a sense of distance,” he grins.
Forensic Trail of the Grand Banquet
A silent video installation, which is also on display in the city as part of Kallat’s Stations of a Pause exhibit at Chemould Prescott Road. In the original, X-rays of food items depict celestial elements moving away from the cosmos. Here, Kallat plays the same clip in reverse.
The Cry of the Gland
A striking 108-part photographic installation, it is part of Kallat’s endeavour to examine urban detail. The artist put this piece together by randomly approaching scores of passers-by in the busy streets of Mumbai. He photographed pockets of their shirts, often bulging or sagging under the weight of daily necessities like pens, cell phones, keys, wallets that hang like extensions of the body.
Kallat re-organised the arrangement of cabinets in order to create an appropriate space for this six-foot-high kerosene stove. Its strategic placement and the ornate black pottery on either side, may lead many to believe that it is part of the museum’s own collection. It has over 100 smaller sculptural elements on the surface, each of them referenced from the porch of the Victoria Terminus, and caught in the act of feeding itself.
One of his new works, this is a complex and labour-intensive piece. Most museum visitors might miss this 140-part installation, in which each of the sculptures look like real bamboo (picture of bamboo inset). Together, they form a scaffolding giving an impression of a room under renovation. Kallat feel it takes the museum back to its recent past, revoking the memory of the building undergoing renovation. It also points to the omnipresence of the scaffolding as a symbol of change and transformation.
Fieldnotes: Tomorrow was here Yesterday is on display at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla.