Thirteen – channel video installation
monitors, sculptural sound devices with audio
In Blind Spots, Reena Kallat deploys the preambles of the constitutions of thirteen pairs of warring nations from around the world as Snellen eye charts used by optometrists to measure vision. As the founding promises of hostile nationstates are revealed as pyramids of disjointed letters, words common to the constitutions of each pair morph into Braille-like dots. The dots lack the haptic element that makes Braille legible, thus rendering the words inaccessible both to the sighted and the blind. The parts thus obscured express universal values such as freedom, democracy, justice, and equality, shared by the constitutions of most modern nation states.The artist thus poses a ‘test of vision’ that invites audiences to reflect back on promises that have slipped from collective memory amidst years of political rhetoric and myopic competition between states. The inscrutability of the words evokes the blurred vision that makes citizens and governments across the world see only difference and conflict where there exist the common aspirations of people everywhere.
Kallat has dwelt often on the limits of perception and the collective myopia of nations in works that interrogate borders both territorial and of the mind. In the video Synapse (2009-10) anxious patients undergoing vision tests hesitantly read out letters that form the preamble of the constitution of India. In Verso-Recto-Recto-Verso (2017-19) the constitutions of India and Pakistan are rendered side by side on scrolls using the tie and dye technique, with common words obscured as flatttened ‘Braille’ patterns.