Kiran Nadar Museum of Art is delighted to present two parallel exhibitions Tangled Hierarchy 2, curated by Jitish Kallat alongside his seminal installation Covering Letter at the upcoming edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2022 . The twinned presentations of Covering Letter and Tangled Hierarchy took place at the John Hansard Gallery in Southampton UK (2 June–10 September 2022) and are now presented together in close conjunction at TKM Warehouse, Fort Kochi as invited parallel exhibitions at the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2022.
“We are delighted to present two projects by Jitish Kallat at the upcoming edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale to coincide the 75th anniversary of India’s Independence. Positioned around two key historical moments, we hope the exhibitions will take the discourse beyond Gandhi and Partition and allow visitors to reflect upon how acts of division and destruction continue to this day” Kiran Nadar, Chairperson, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Tangled Hierarchy 2, Curated by Jitish Kallat
Tangled Hierarchy-2 is an exhibition that centres on a collection of five humble yet remarkable used envelopes. Each envelope is addressed to Mahatma Gandhi and is now conserved within the Mountbatten Archive at the University of Southampton. The first iteration of Tangled Hierarchy opened at John Hansard Gallery Southampton UK on 2nd June 2022, marking 75 years to the day since the momentous meeting between Lord Louis Mountbatten (the newly appointed Viceroy of India) and Mahatma Gandhi.
ELLE: Tell us about the Tangled Hierarchy 2 exhibit.
Jitish: The curatorial coordinates of the exhibition were sketched out in 2018. It was a free-associative process that began with historical handwritten notes by Mahatma Gandhi as the nucleus. The exhibition opened at John Hansard Gallery Southampton UK on 2nd June 2022 exactly 75 years since Gandhi wrote those words. Artworks, archival documents, and objects entangle into an interwoven system of inquiries… bringing together the neuroscientist V. Ramachandran’s Mirror Box, trunks from the Partition Museum, and Roger Penrose’s earliest drawing of the impossible stairs.
The exhibition dates overlap with the tumultuous weeks in 1947 when maps were abruptly redrawn, leading to catastrophic violence and the forced migration of twenty million people.
ELLE: Elaborate on the significance of the five envelopes from the exhibit “Tangled Hierarchy 2”
J: The envelopes were all addressed to Mahatma Gandhi and received by him with merely his name and city mentioned on them. Gandhi’s silence on that day had a unique cadence. He writes: When I took the decision about the Monday silence I did reserve two exceptions, i.e. about speaking to high functionaries on urgent matters or attending to sick people. But I know you don’t want me to break my silence…
We don’t know what Mountbatten said that day but in his silence, Gandhi leaves us an archival residue from a moment just weeks before one of the largest human displacements in history. They open numerous questions about speech and silence, agency, and hierarchy. Was his silence a result of his already having expended his words challenging partition? We can only speculate…
ELLE: What is the focal point for the exhibit “Covering Letter”
J: Covering Letter, much like my Public Notice trilogy, reflects on an utterance from history that might be repurposed to re-think the present. The work is a piece of historical correspondence beamed onto a curtain of traversable dry fog; a brief letter written by M. K. Gandhi to Adolf Hitler in 1939 urging him to reconsider his violent means. There is a sense of perplexity in the way that Gandhi words his address; as the principal proponent of peace from a historical moment, he greets Hitler, one of the most violent individuals of that era, as a friend. Like many of Gandhi’s gestures and his life experiments, this piece of correspondence seems like an open letter destined to travel beyond its delivery date and intended recipient – a letter written to anyone, anytime, anywhere.
ELLE: What are your thoughts on the current scenario of modern and contemporary art?
J: As an art scene, we now host large art events like the Kochi Biennale and our neighbours such a Bangladesh and Sri Lanka host projects such as Dhaka Art Summit and Colomboscope. Earlier artists from South Asia were always guests in other countries, now we are able to play hosts. That said we do have a long way to go in terms of institutional development and art education etc.
While we have a growing art community, there is much to do in terms of museum infrastructure as well as the ambivalent role of the state in supporting the arts.