Swami Vivekananda spoke at the first Parliament of the World’s Religions on Sept 11, 1893. His speech spoke to his hope for a world of inclusivity and harmony between people of all faiths. He reached out to his audience at that time to ask that they consider within themselves a spirit led by God to love one another as He sees us–a community of brothers and sisters.
Juxtapose that with September 11, 2001. That was a day everything changed. The impact of the planes hitting the Twin Towers reverberated the world over and 9 years later we are still reeling from this catastrophe.
Jitish Kallat designed an artistic expression of what began on that day as a search for peace and reconciliation. Using the color codes designed by the Federal Government’s terrorist alert system, Jitish imposes them upon the peaceful words of Swami Vivekananda. If you were to stand in the middle of the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase, you could look up from all sides and read the words as they ran from one stair to another, each word coded in a different color.
As I stood in the center of the staircase, I found myself feeling the weight of the decades since Swami’s speech. I see the words ‘bigotry’ and ‘fanaticism’ in bold colors alongside ‘welcome,’ ‘toleration’ and ‘hope.’ It was as if Swami Vivekananda resided in that very room where he spoke so many decades ago to implore us to look at the current context in which we live. (more…)