A large scale installation by Reena Saini Kallat is on display as part of the Havana Biennial 2019. The work, which considers constitutions written by countries in conflict, can be seen at the Wilfredo Lam Centre for Contemporary Art.
The theme of the 2019 Havana Biennale is The Construction of the Possible. This theme is explored in many ways by participating artists, notable themes including the growth and propagation of non human life forms, postcolonial power and the self-organised group. Kallat’s contribution to the collective conversation in Havana concerns the way countries (as both legal and social entities) navigate conflict. Conflict may be addressed in myriad ways, from spontaneous collective action to the procedure of formulating and implementing laws.
Verso-Recto-Recto-Verso (2017-19) features large panels of tied and dyed silk suspended from the ceiling. The panels are also textual scrolls featuring the preambles to constitutions of countries in conflict or in a state of partition; India and Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, Cuba and the US, North and South Sudan, North and South Korea. The installation is a monument to the act of creating a written and legally codified manifesto for peace and justice in a time of crisis. The constitutions project into the future the hopes of citizens in the present; they are the population’s promise to its future generations.
Kallat takes a mercurial approach to language when presenting the pairs of constitutions; patterns of dots are at times arranged into English text (white dots), at other times they form Braille phrases (yellow dots). There is slippage between the two, making the text illegible to both the blind and the sighted. All who read the constitutions are forced to navigate, to struggle to trace patterns, determine direction or define meaning through the chaos. The illegibility of the work brings visitors into contact with the process of establishing common values amid conflict.
Havana Biennial 13: The Construction of the Possible is at the Wilfredo Lam Centre for Contemporary Art, Havana, Cuba from 12 April to 12 May.