Burnt adhesive on acrylic mirror, wood, stainless steel
78 x 54 x 6 in./ 198 x 137 x 15 cm. (each of 5 parts)
Public Notice (2003) is the first work in the eponymous series by Jitish Kallat. It is based on the speech that India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru delivered on August 14, 1947 from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi addressing a new nation on the eve of its independence.
In his ‘Tryst with Destiny’ address, repeated in endlessly in textbooks and memorialised to a point of abstraction, Nehru spells out the promises a new nation born out of a gory partition made to its citizens— calling for a relentless striving for democracy, peace, justice, unity, and the end of poverty and ignorance.
To create the installation, Kallat hand-inscribed Nehru’s speech using rubber glue on acrylic panels before setting fire to it. The incinerated skeleton of the speech thus produced dramatically brings to focus the failure of the Nehruvian dream. The letters, inscribed in fire, evoke the horrendous violence and arson that was unleashed in Gujarat during the 2002 riots, an event that foreshadowed the creation of work. As viewers inspect the inscriptions they are confronted by a distorted image of the self reflected in the mirror, implicating them in the failure of India’s founding dreams.