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 In revisiting these historical documents, Kallat calls attention to the possibilities of peace and tolerance in a world plagued by violence, control, and surveillance.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.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.