Twenty different species of fauna, depicted in a state of dreaming sleep, make up Jitish Kallat’s The Infinite Episode. Cast from dental plaster, the sculpted animals are wide-ranging, including a giraffe, swan, rhinoceros, elephant, kangaroo, ostrich, penguin and camel, among others. The artist asks: “In The Infinite Episode, the fundamental transformation that occurs in the moment of sleep is that the species surrender scale. Would a sleeping lion and a sleeping mouse share the same scale of body in the state of repose?” In other words, what the work portrays is an animalian utopia: the creatures, despite real-life divergences, are here represented approximately equal in size. They share not simply a physical space, but a state of being – sleep – wherein corporeal scale has been made irrelevant.
That various species have been brought together in close proximity also suggests an idealised realm, rather than actuality. The giraffe and ostrich, for instance, are native to the African continent, while the kangaroo is mostly found in Australia; in the wild, camels inhabit a geographical belt spanning the Middle East to Central Asia and Mongolia, regions unfamiliar to the penguin. Moreover, the natural hierarchies of predator and prey, e.g., between lion and buffalo, bear and deer, are refuted; these creatures sleep mere inches apart, made amicable in slumber. Kallat’s work, through a deceptively simple affirmation of likeness and proximity, provokes broader deliberations on coexistence, hierarchy and inequity – urgent issues that remain relevant to the human species.