Frontline contemporary artist Jitish Kallat has had several solo exhibitions in India and abroad. He has also been exhibited at museums and institutions across the world. His work has been part of several biennale and triennales including the Havana Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Asia Pacific Triennale, Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale and the Guangzhou Triennale amongst others. The Mumbai-based Jitish Kallat travelled to Calcutta recently for a workshop on Art in Public Space fielded by Ficci, Max Mueller Bhavan, Kokata Museum of Modern Art and Kolkata Municipal Corporation, when Ashoke Nag of ET met him for an exclusive chat. Excerpts: You have been invited to Calcutta by Ficci for this meet on Art in Public Space. What are your thoughts on this form of art? 'm on Ficci's Committee for Art and it is nice to see a concerted effort coming from Kolkata to look at art and its role in the public domain. The discussions have been really fruitful and if some of this dialogue crystallizes in action, it will have a huge impact. Tell me about your beginnings a bit. I was born in Mumbai in 1974 and grew up in what one might call middle-class, suburbia. The parenting that I received was quite focused on middle-class values, and education was always at the center of things. Did you contemplate becoming an artist from an early stage in your life? Not really an artist at a very early stage. I was interested in mass-media, advertising etc and joined art school with the intention of pursuing that path. Within a month of joining JJ School of Art, I found my true calling and decided to become an artist. Which was your first break as an artist and how did it happen? Oh, I feel it happened from a student exhibition during my fourth year at art school, when one of my pieces was acquired by Deutsche Bank. Usually, the bank would only acquire mid-career to older artists, but surprisngly they also had this up in their lobby. A German curator who visited the bank then, tracked me down at art school. He invited me to be part of an important show titled 'Innenseite' and also contribute to the conference. At the conference, I read an essay titled 'Are we Coca-colonised?'. Being just twenty-two at the time, it was a real learning experience. Can you expand on the various mediums of artworks you create? The medium is really just a vehicle to germinate an idea. So, the realisation of a piece as sculpture, photograph, painting or video, would be determined by what might best deliver the freight of metaphors and meanings that make up the work. How would describe yourself as an artist: a painter, sculptor, installation artist......or all? I'd would think of myself simply as a member of civil society; of course, one's preoccupation with deciphering and interpreting life can take the form of a painting, sculpture etc. So, these labels might be quite inevitable. I like a description assigned by art critic Nicholas Bourriaud of the artist as 'semionaut'....making connections in this world of proliferating signs.
Onsite at the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, Indian artist Jitish Kallat is interviewed by art historian Susan Hapgood about two recent museum projects of his: Fieldnotes: Tomorrow Was Here Yesterday, presented in Mumbai in 2011.
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