Sperone Westwater announces an online viewing of Jitish Kallat's new installation

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Sperone Westwater announces an online viewing of Jitish Kallat's new installation
Installation view of Jitish Kallat's exhibition "Terranum Nuncius" at Famous Studios, Mumbai, 9 January – 22 January 2020. FAM photos: Installation view of "Jitish Kallat: Return to Sender" at Frist Art Museum, 2020. Image courtesy of Frist Art Museum, Nashville. Photo: John Schweikert. Sketches: Working sketch for Covering Letter (terranum nuncius), courtesy Jitish Kallat.

NEW YORK, NY.- Sperone Westwater is presenting an online viewing of Jitish Kallat’s new installation Covering Letter (terranum nuncius).

On view in the artist’s solo exhibition at the Frist Art Museum, this immersive installation brings together select sounds and images from NASA’s Golden Records, originally composed for expedition into interstellar space as a planetary message to extraterrestrial life. The title comes from Galileo Galilei’s astronomical treatise Sidereus Nuncius, published in New Latin meaning "starry messenger," inverted by the artist as Terranum Nuncius or "earthly messenger."

At a time when we find ourselves in a deeply divided world, Kallat replays NASA’s missive to show us the Earth from an otherworldly point of view—images and sounds foreground a collective meditation for ourselves as joint residents of a single planet, where the “other” is an unknown “intergalactic alien.”

Covering Letter (terranum nuncius) consists of four main components—immersive audio, illuminative transparencies installed on a large table, sculptural benches and a solar location map projected as pulsars on the wall. Greetings to the universe in fifty-five languages permeate the gallery deployed over speakers in the form of an audio broadcast. For listening to these messages, Kallat provides a bench, which takes a distinctive shape evoking the two hands of the Doomsday Clock. This symbolic clock, maintained since 1947 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, warns us just how close we are to global catastrophe. A diagram resembling the one on the cover of the Golden Record is projected on the wall showing our place amongst the stars—our return address. Placed atop a large, communal roundtable are images that range from scientific and cosmological diagrams to photographs of flora and fauna, architecture, human anatomy, and vegetation, encapsulating the world as it was in 1977. It is a history and a portrait of our planet, describing who, what, where and how we are to an unknown interstellar intelligence.

Jitish Kallat was born in 1974 in Mumbai, the city where he continues to live and work. Kallat’s works over the last two decades reveal his continued engagement with the ideas of time, sustenance, recursion and historical recall, often interlacing the dense cosmopolis and the distant cosmos. His oeuvre traverses varying focal lengths and time-scales. From close details of the skin of a fruit or the brimming shirt-pocket of a passerby, it might expand to register dense peoplescapes, or voyage into intergalactic vistas. While some works meditate on the transient present, others invoke the past through citations of momentous historical utterances. Frequently shifting orders of magnitude, Kallat’s works can be said to move interchangeably between meditations on the self, the city–street, the nation and the cosmic horizon, viewing the ephemeral within the context of the perpetual, the everyday in juxtaposition with the historical, the microscopic alongside the telescopic.

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