Posted by: Rajesh Shukla | September 6, 2010

Jitish Kallat in a trap

The extreme spiritualization of the despotic State, and the extreme internalization of the Capitalist field, define bad conscience.

`Indian contemporary artist Jitish Kallat has created a magnum work in Chicago at the very place where Swami Vivekananda delivered his first speech on HINDUTTVA in September 11, 1893. Swami Vivekanand’s speech is repeated across the 118 steps of a grand staircase in random manner in different color- lights, producing every time a new meaning and effects. Textual display has been done according to installation art that many have been done in the past if not on such a grand scale. Remarkable thing is that the color display of Vivekananda text is in the color code of U.S. Homeland Security Department–Spiritual has been deeply embedded with despotic machine. Text color of security department gives it another symbolic meaning- a new meaning that these kinds of discourses always used by a despotic state and supported by it. Vivkananda’s speech on humanism has only relevance to a bourgeois despotic state like America and to the corporate institutions that sustain it that is a part of a larger repressive machine. There are more secret meanings to be read in these kinds of art works created in those kinds of public spaces.  When this kind of ‘text’ becomes figurative (producing figural affects) then it’s not without reason because only in a particular situation these schema would be employed. If something is not working, if a particular kind of code and intensity loses its ground then these new intensities will be created and infused in to the social; such figurative languages are very useful and effective. It’s a kind of clinical operation being done by conservative bourgeois in a circular manner, an imposition of order via a spiritualist upon the environment creating another space for others. And importantly to remember, in the interaction with these abstractly figurative texts a vector would be created which would produce a resultant vector- a fundamentalist psyche.

It’s a production of another site of a belief, a sentiment, a limit, a block; overall a fundamentalist intensity to create affects.  Second thing is that Vivekanand is assimilated in the spaces of criminalized mercantile values and wretchedness as an order creating voice-text. America needed it more than any other country because America has been criminalized and dehumanized to the point that people have stopped thinking at all; they are drugged and radicalized bourgeoisie in some unknown madness to kill without fear. American home land security and even traffic police uses various kinds of tactics to direct intensity in desired direction to maintain order. As for example traffic police would say “Listen to traffic reports! You may be informed by your local news traffic reports that there is “police activity” in an area. That activity could be in your honor.” it would simply mean that state forces people to behave in ways they want them to and it is said that state police is always in your favors while it would be repressing and doing things that is absolutely not desired in democracy. America invests more than any country to maintain its machinery that watches over its own people that have become criminal and mad. Bourgeois state doesn’t believe its own people. What Foucault discussed in his concept panopticon is practiced by the American bourgeois. The concept of space in architecture malls and hotels is through and through panopticon in its construct in which man is indexed and captured in confusion.  In mercantile bourgeois space man resigns in confusion. This is a corporate geometry within the state geometry where a micro level of politics will be played out. Isn’t in another sense a kind of fascist territorialization?

What is important in this context is to ask its relevance in the contemporary world. As every one knows that Vivekanada was a racist Hinduttva icon and his notion of humanism was limited to a peculiar kind of Humanism that every sectarian religious teacher teaches. In his Humanism there is always a notion of superior and inferior that directly comes from his Aryan notion that Brahmana is born of mind and khatriyas from god’s arms (and both rule) etc and relying on this very notion of superior-inferior quality of individuals which was later grounded on metaphysics; he conceives an idea of  new humanity. Hindu Arya have superior intelligence and emotions while Muslims have power of arms since they are warrior clan therefore a humanity that will emerge from both will be strongest having both qualities. He did not consider Muslims as human beings having emotions and spiritual intelligence (if they have it, it is inferior then Hindus), he always considered them as fighter beasts having no love and compassion: they are just like habbshi animal-people. Vivekananda’s view of Christians too is not very good for they too are no less uncultured poor races. The concept of race is scattered in his various speeches. In his view, if Hinduism is a superior religion it is because of Arya race; he never forgets us to remind of its innate spiritual qualities not found other race. In the comparative reading of western and Indian culture he grossly divided both on extrovert and introvert point of view which was based on three-guna theory of Sankhya. In one of his speech Vivekananda suggests that since western psyche is dominated by rajo-guna they are extrovert and not spiritual while Hindus are introvert and spiritual because in them sattva-guna dominated. However, later he concluded that in present age Hindu psyche is pre-dominated by tamo-guna hence they are neither introvert nor extrovert rather have become a dumb mass, that is, have plunged in to utter delusion. In many speeches he emphasized that western society needs sattva guna for spiritual development while Indian society needs rajo-guna for their progress. Viveka Nanda’s entire categorization was based on his shallow reading of western culture and people. He was less read and unaware of Christian tradition that has produced no less introverts and intelligent sages than us.

But in this globalized economy why an unsecular Hindu Swami was invoked in America in relation to terrorist attack of 9/11? American Nationalism that was resurrected after the terrorist attack gradually turned into a kind fascist cry. Noam Chomsky, Zizek and many other thinkers’ majority of them American speaks about the surge of fascism in America. But whatever is the case; I do wonder why in contemporary art such kind of nonsecular ritual is needed? Why Hinduttva needed? It raises several questions concerning art practice and it’s so called spiritualism and humanism. Question should be asked not to the related artist alone but also to those nonsecular art investors who capture them and force them to execute it. In spite of talking about the brighter side of humanity why they are fucking in to such communal stuffs? Vivekanada’s speech may be great and historical for Hinduttva point of view and for Hinduttava discourse on nationalism but our point is to ask whether it was also good and relevant for larger humanity and relevant for contemporary art discourse? No Christian or Muslim can agree with Vivekananda’s discourse of superior races. In fact a contemporary artist should have critically commented and have taken his position on what I apparently have outlined. Artist should have asked rather how does a man who proposes such notion of humanity could be adorable from larger discourses art and humanism of today. Amidst all this, what is the point of view of artist on the subject; say his subjective point of view? Wasn’t he in the money-honey trap and worked simply for the rightists? If he had just made it as a memorable monument then it has no artistic point; if he did it out of love of Vivekananda he must be a Hinduttva man agreeing with his point of views. Even, if he did it out of some kind of nationalist spirit yet it was worst of its kind and through and through non-secular. I am unable to find out any logic for converting Vivekananda speech into an artwork. It is in fact a rightist propaganda nothing else. Immortalization and conversion of a nonsecular right wing Baba into a champion of humanism must be another fascist cultural conspiracy of the bourgeois. It is another face of corporate art which is oppressive and nonsecular in substance. No one can appreciate such mega corporate non-secular propaganda art installation done on tax payer’s money but to criticize such art and events by all means. Every truth and every action imply both an environment and a human subjectivity; one can not escape it.  Kallat’s work made us ask, does art belong to imperial despotic representation? Should we allow them to use art for such fundamentalist purposes?



  1. great take sir. eye opening.

  2. Great writeup ..subtle interpretation. you are very true.

  3. Very nice article rajesh sir. we now started knowing all this. great writing fuck all such tendencies.

  4. Swami Vivekananda always carried Gita and Imitation of Christ. He had great regards for Christ and quoted Christ in most of his lectures (ofcourse in a positive way). He was against ‘Churchanity’ and not against Christianity. He was also against the conversions which the Christian missionaries were carrying out wherever they went. During the Parliament of Religions there was an attempt to prove the supremacy of Christian Religion. So he had to counter them with strong words. But he was a supporter of all the religions. Even in those days, he had taken food with his Muslim and Christian brothers. He never advocated any one religion, infact he said that every man can have different religion to realise the higher truth. His Guru Sri Ramakrishna had realised God in Christ, Prophet, Buddha by actually following their traditions and rituals. Vivekananda said “To devote your life to the good of all and to the happiness of all is religion. Whatever you do for your own sake is not religion” He also said “True religion is not talk, or doctrines, or theories, nor is it sectarianism. It is the relation between soul and God. Religion does not consist in erecting temples, or building churches, or attending public worship. It is not to be found in books, or in words, or in lectures, or in organizations. Religion consists in realization. We must realize God, feel God, see God, talk to God. That is religion.”
    You can go through this speech

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