Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat’s site-specific installation on the Art Institute’s Grand Staircase considers the events of September 11, 2001 in light of September 11, 1893, when Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda’s landmark speech about global religious tolerance was delivered at the First World Parliament of Religions, held in conjunction with the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, just feet away inside the museum’s auditorium. The force of visual impact in the artist’s installation keeps its commentary on the regression of religious tolerance and the global rise of fanaticism from feeling secondhand or pious. Kallat converts the entirety of Vivekananda’s speech into a permanent LED display that takes up both rises of the Grand Staircase, a site previously mined by artist Daniel Buren. It’s surprising how strongly Kallat’s piece resonates with the permanent collection objects surrounding it; the text reflects off the windows of the Buddhist art gallery on the first floor and draws attention to the great divide between this tradition and the Impressionists on the other side of the stairs. Kallat’s choice to reference the events of 9/11 with the colors of the Department of Homeland Security’s alert system is an easy symbolic gesture of terror’s infection on speech that’s nonetheless usefully confrontational. (Monica Westin)
Through January 2 at the Art Institute of Chicago, 111 South Michigan.
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