Kochi: Jitish Kallat’s sculptural installation at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an abstract work that combines themes from the prehistoric past and future, while deriving a part of its form from the iconic Doomsday Clock.
On view inside a large hall at TKM Warehouse in the heritage town of Mattancherry, a suite of six exhibits has been illuminated from the top, making the entire setting appear ominous. The installation, made out of dental plaster with mild steel supports, is called ‘Untitled (Two Minutes to Midnight)’.
The title of the 2018 work is a direct reference to the Doomsday Clock, which was created in 1947 as a symbolic/hypothetical representation of how close humanity is to a man-made catastrophe. Developed by a group of scientists, scholars and Nobel laureates, represented by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the clock was recently set to 11:58 pm — which is two minutes before the symbolic apocalyptic midnight.
Situating his work in the context of nuclear weapons and climate change being cited as one of the potential causes for the world’s end, Jitish’s work re-imagines the clock by placing the six sculptures on a plinth that is shaped liked the Doomsday Clock. “The installation draws together ciphers that link past and future, dawn and midnight to induce a contemplation on the many urgencies of our present-day existence,” says the 44-year-old Mumbaikar, with family roots tracing to Kerala.
Even as he looks to the prophesied future in his installation, the form of his exhibits has been informed by a landmark discovery from the prehistoric era, which is the first evidence of tool construction millions of years ago.
Elaborating on the form of his biennale sculptures, Jitish says the suite of sculptures derives its form from paleolithic hand axes and stone tools that were the first human effort to alter the face of the planet. In his work, the artist uses the reference to the first stone tools to make a point about the destruction of the planet. “The first stone tools mark the dawn of human ingenuity, augmenting physical capacities before exponential future innovations lead to uninhibited human supremacy and indiscriminate manipulation of the planet,” he says.
As an artist whose vast oeuvre covers painting, photography, drawing and video apart from sculptural installations, Jitish’s work has largely focused on themes of human existence, time, sustenance, history, nations, cities and the distant cosmos.
After working as a curator and artistic director of the 2014 edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Jitish returned to the fourth edition as a participating artist for the 108-day event that concludes on March 29.
The artist studied painting at Sir J. J. School of Art and has widely exhibited at museums and galleries all over the world, including shows at Tate, London, and a number of presentations at biennales and triennials in Asia and the west.