The Innovative Causes Of Practice Within Design

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Neil Brown interrogates the “practical reasoning between artefacts and practice that explainsinnovation in design” (n.d). To manifest this practical reason an ‘intentional net’ was developed to trace the innovative causes of practice within design. Brown states that the schema is “not tailored tothe analysis of design practice specifically” endowing us the liberty to cast this net on the practice ofcontemporary art. While brown is liberal in his application of the ‘net’, he is dismissive in hisdefinitions of innovative practice. Effort is made however, to contrast the definitions of ‘creative’ and‘innovative’ practices, yet Brown assumes that the net be applied to those purely innovative practicesthat substitute “new types and constraints within traditional performances” (Elster, 1993).

By“reassembling relevant fragments [of] triangulating evidence” of Jitish Kallat’s Public Notice 2, theviewer (or reader here) indulges in a performance performing a performance, supporting Brown’sassumptions that innovation arises in practice, only with the “emergence of new conventions”(Brown, n.d).Geeta Kapur (2011) questions that, in our age of realism how Kallat’s literal subject matter and formof address, positions his work with regard to the crucial categories of population, populace, and thepeople “with agency”.

Aligning with Boyd’s (1988) ideas that “it is not necessary for a realist toreturn to a first cause [or] historical beginning” and emphasizing Searle’s (1995) theories that stateartwork is “dependent upon opinion or ideology in order to exist”, the intentional net manifested.With the grounding belief that it is necessary to advance and uncover evidence of reasoned linksregarding the relation between Kallat’s work and his practice, we are able to use the network of 6interrelating functions to expose the ‘truth’ of the relation between the ‘Socio-cultural designer’ andthe ‘artefact’, the ‘methodology’ and the ‘artefact’ and the ‘object’ and the ‘artefact. While the netdoes not explicitly involve the ‘user’ or ‘audience’ within its functions, by imputing the user into therelational power of the net, we can situate Kallat’s work in both local and global milieus.Using Brown’s hypothesis to posit ‘the socio-cultural designer ->to ->artefact’ relation, we canbegin to uncover potential causes of Kallat’s innovation.

Kallat’s identity here is represented, and inquestion within this relation as both an ‘Indian’ and ‘transnational’ artist. The hypothesis nowbecomes ‘the socio-cultural designer ->local/global identity ->artefact’. Kallat (2011) explains thatlabeling himself as an ‘indian’ artist “binds [his] work of art as if one were GPS-coding its meaning tojust one isolated location”, yet refutes the idea of being labeled a ‘global’ artist despite aspects of hispractice being rooted in conditions specific to his home subcontinent. We are faced here with acontradiction that problematizes practice, and one that Schön (1983) acknowledges as Kallat’sindividual system of knowing in practice in order to keep his “art of practice mysterious”.

ProfessorHomi K. Bhabha criticizes Kallat for blurring his stance on a labeled identity and states that “to seethe nation-space as quintessentially defined – either politically or culturally – by the nation-state is tosubstantially narrow both its cunning capillary power and, at the same time to radically reduce spacesof creative intervention and strategies of transgression / transformation”. Homi suggests that anational identity in its entirety is an appropriate concept for Kallat’s practice, one that is big enough toencompass both his work and practice, without detrimental effects. Kallat’s views that labeling hiswork ‘Indian’ contradict Homi’s suggesting its appropriateness distract us in a superficial debate fromfinding those innovative causes with Kallat’s practice. Geeta Kapur (2011) overcomes this problemby explaining that labels of identity are so “irreversibly relativized” that we must step beyond theirthresholds. This conceptual space between local and global identities allows Kallat to occupy aninterstitial space and practice, one that confuses categories and classifications.

The ambivalent process of Kallat’s identity-questioning practice is one that allows “affiliation andalienation as the active, on going condition of concerned, committed citizenship” (Homi, 2011). Wecan adjust the net equation here to ‘the socio-cultural designer ->citizen artist ->artefact’ to bothunderstand the relationship between designer, artwork and Kallat’s ambiguous identity as ‘citizenartist’. It is here, where Brown’s net starts to fray. The premise of his article Paradox and Imputationin the Explanation of Practical Innovation in Design is to find those causes (and their explanations) ofthe root of innovation in design practice, but concludes, through his hypothesis and equations of thenet functions that their relations embody only those “causal links” that “impute intention”.

While Iargue that the major difference between ‘causes’ and ‘causal links’ are paramount, we will continueassuming, as Brown does, that they are one in the same. Whether we read this relationship, imputing alocal, Indian identity, a Global, transnational identity or a conceptual citizen artist identity, we areable to understand those causal links between the socio-cultural designer and the artefact, one that, inits individual function, highlight an array of complex and contested reasonings to those possible,original points of innovation within Kallat’s practice. To further understand these causal linksbetween the artefact and the place, period and time under which Kallat’s practice transpired, we mustlook to another relation within the net, one that includes methodology and materiality.

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Looking to the relation between ‘the artefact ->to ->the methodology’, we can understand theemergence of new conventions that may render Kallat’s practice innovative, both symbolically andmaterially. Kallat’s work Public Notice 2 takes the form of imitation skeletal remains, cast fromfiberglass, reproducing the speech given by Mahandas Karamchand Gandhi on the eve of the DandiSalt march (Sambrani, 2015). We could argue that Kallat employs the conventions of language,typography or semiotics as part of a creative practice, but as Brown assumes the work innovative, weshall address the materiality of these letters as the causal link between the artefact and themethodology. The equation becomes ‘the artefact ->fiberglass lettering (bones) ->themethodology’. Using bones as a new convention of language, we can understand this carefullyplanned choice to “to decipher meanings, which, not unlike bones, lie beneath the surface” (Mirza,2015).

The primary outcome of the monumental 4,479 sculptural units in relation to the materials andconventions used allow us to question; if Kallat’s premise was to make Gandhi’s words live again, tomake them relevant again after three quarters of a century, why use bones? Although Kallat uses thenew convention of a boney language, he confides in the convention of a public notice. A conventionthat he knows, historically “considers the public at large”, and by increasing the size of the notice tomonumental scale, he “simultaneously places the text within its particular historical moment andreinvigorates it for present purposes” (Sambrani, 2015). While the bones act as both “remainders andreminders”, Kallat is ambiguously able to recall of the past while also “project[ing] a trajectorytoward the future, in the sense that it is meant to endure and remind future generations of its legacy”(Hi, 2009). It is here, through the creating of a monument, or, the practice of creating monuments, arewe able to expose Kallat’s innovation.

The particular use of materials, despite being situated withintraditional conventions of language and notice, we can see a clear innovative cause within Kallat’spractice that strategically allows “letters to assume their own sacredness: beyond their lineage back tothe rhetoric of the salt march and beyond the value of words” (Mirza, 2015).We can assert this point of identified innovation by substituting the material in ‘the artefact ->to ->methodology” equation. For instance, as seen in the Art Gallery of New South Wales installationvideo, the same primary outcome arises using different methodology, in this case, printed, a3 sheetsof paper, in plain sanserif font. The equation ‘the artefact ->printed text ->Figure 1methodology’highlights the conventional use of typedlanguage that would not only render the work ‘un-innovative’, but fail to increasethe aesthetic agency,power and value of a word by voiding the individual letters of material presence. (Raffel, 2015).

Sambrani (2015) also questions Kallat’s use of materials within his methodology, probing the conceptand use of salt considering the historical and political connection to India’s salt production andtaxation under colonial rule. While she doesn’t suggest Kallat use salt to create the letters, stimulatingthis thought and in turn the equation ‘the artefact ->salt letters ->methodology’ we can understandwhat the monument may be like with a temporal quality to the work that would still inviterecalibration, but with an aspect of deterioration, undermine the premise of the work and fail to “makethe historical record live again, literally and figuratively”. It is obvious here, although Kallat haschosen to participate in historical conventions of public notices, monuments and language, hissubversions of, and introduction of specific, new materials, these conventions blur on account of his“proclivity to melodrama” that allow the political and historical nature of his work to “live on fromtheir many pasts into the present” (Cherry, 2013).

In this instance, employing Browns functionalrelations between artefact and methodology truly expose a realist case of innovation within thepractice of contemporary art.Looking to the relational power between ‘the object ->to ->the artefact we are able to reveal insightinto “what the artefact is about” in realtion to the actual primary outcome (Brown, n.d). Gayatri Sinha(2013), in her article The Afterlives of Images: The Contested Legacies of Gandhi in Art and PopularCulture raises concern with “the sublimation of Gandhi into an apotheosized role [that] is not withoutcontradictions”. While she acknowledges Gandhi’s roles as both the father of a nation and the son ofIndia, she highlights that despite his progressive and radical approach to a “hindi worldview of auniversal humanism with great tolerance” Gandhi contradicts his own views on worldwide progress.Gandhi himself states that he believed that “it almost seems as though god in his wisdom hadprevented India from progressing along those lines [of western progress] so that it might fulfill itsspecial mission of resisting the onrush of materialism” (Sinha 2013).

A dream that didn’t and is yet totranspire in India. Here we are confronted with two Gandhi’s, and if Kallat’s work references ahomage to Gandhi, which one? The net function between the object and the artefact result in yetanother equation of ‘the object ->Gandhi’s identity ->the artefact’. Neru explains that Gandhi’sideology created a deficit effect in intellectually and culturally backward environments where noprogress could be made. This notion could reference Kallat’s choice to use bones when he could have,for instance, used radical technology within his lettering like we can see in his later work Public.

However, more appropriately Gandhi’s identity, whether held in high or low regard, couldrelate as a direct innovative cause between what the object is about and the aftefact itself. DoesKallats work represent the first Gandhi identity, father of a nation and son of India, advocate of civilrights, peace and the official image bearer of justice or represent his second identity, one that is“perpetually immanent and in a state of reinvention, [that] is invoked to interrogate the nation that hefathered”? Whether the viewer, in their individual and specific readings of the identity of Gandhi havestance on the position or not, Kallat “develops a new genre of political and social portraiture thatreveals the complex viciousness, inequity and compromise of the present by placing it in starkcontrast with the idealism of different moments in the past” (Elliot, 2015).

By revealing the deepironies central to the practice of Kallat’s work that perform historical performances, we canunderstand the roots of the innovation within his practice, that, in a sense, acts as a forum of newconvention where all ideas, interpretations and readings of the past can be projected into the presenton a trajectory into the future.While exposing some assumptions regarding the stance of the intentional net, and the omission ofonly ‘creative practices’, we are able to uncover some of those innovative causes within the practiceof contemporary Artist, Jitish Kallat. Although we have used a specific work.

The enormity of the analysis using all 6 individual functions of the net is one that’s realist relations couldcontinue on in a never ending knotting of the net. Using specific examples, like the agencies of theartefact, the methodology, the object and the socio-cultural designer, we were able to trace andreassemble possible reasoning for innovation within Kallat’s practice, without the catatrophicconsequence of being wrong (Brown, n.d.). Material choice, the identity of the practitioner and theidentity of the subject all play integral roles in the construction of Kallat’s artistic practice, and whileKallat may keep “the art of his practice mysterious” the causal links between agencies expose andexplain the origination of innovation within it. Using this innovation, Kallat has been successful inallowing the complexities of Gandhi’s ideals to be “remembered in the forgetting” to be “revived inthe subversion” in which the “contemporary Gandhi assumes many afterlives” (Sinha, 2013).


  1. Brown, N. (n.d.) Paradox & Imputation In Explanation Of Practical Innovation In Design,Conference Proceedings: Speculation and Innovation (Kelvin Grove: Queensland University ofTechnology, 2005)
  2. Bhabha, Cuno, Kallat, Kapur, Rondeau, & Strick. (2011). E-Conversation with Jitish Kallat. ArtInstitute of Chicago Museum Studies, 36(2), 67-87.
  3. Boyd, R. (1998). How to be a Moral Realist. In G. Sayre-McCord (Ed), Essays on Moral Realism,(181-228). Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  4. Cherry, D. (2013). The Afterlives of Monuments. South Asian Studies, 29(1), 1-14.
  5. Elster, J. (1993). Fulness and Parsimony: Notes on Creativity in the Arts. In S. Kamal & I. Gaskel(Eds), Explanation and Value in the Arts, (146-172). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  6. Hui, A. (2009) Texts, Monuments, and the Desire for Immortality’, in Moment to Monument: TheMaking and Unmaking of Cultural Significance, ed. by L. B. Lambert and A. Ochsner.
  7. Sambrani, Mirza, Elliot & Raffel. (2015). Jitish Kallat: Public Notice 2. Sydney: ShermanContemporary Art Foundation.
  8. Schön, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner. New York: Basic Book.
  9. Searle, J. (1995). The Construction of Social Reality. London: Penguin.
  10. Sinha, G. (2013). The Afterlives of Images: The Contested Legacies of Gandhi in Art and PopularCulture. South Asian Studies, 29(1), 111-129
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