If you want to experience a powerful work featuring a letter from Mahatma Gandhi to Adolf Hitler urging him not to undertake aggressions that would “reduce humanity to the savage state,” head over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Mumbai-based contemporary artist Jitish Kallat’s “Covering Letter” is an immersive installation and video projection, which presents a historical letter by Gandhi to Hitler, written five weeks before the start of World War II. Kallat reincarnates this letter as a film of mist.
In the spirit of his doctrine of universal friendship, Gandhi begins the letter with the greeting “Dear friend,” according to the museum. The letter offers a passionate plea to Hitler to pursue peace rather than war. Kallat describes this correspondence as a plea from a great advocate of peace to one of the most violent individuals who ever lived.
Kallat believes these lines by Gandhi can go “way beyond its intended recipient” and speak to perhaps “anyone now to create a space of self-reflection.”
Kallat’s interest in remediating history through the actions and words of historical figures aligns “Covering Letter” with his earlier work. In his “Public Notice” series, Kallat, whose body of work is vast, spanning painting, photography, drawing, video, and sculptural installations, staged sculptural and interactive interventions that similarly appropriated texts by Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Swami Vivekananda.
Kallat’s “Covering Letter” is the first exhibition of this work in the U.S.
The exhibit will remain on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelman Building through March 5, 2017.