Bhopal in a Box

First Published : 22 Mar 2011 10:35:23 PM IST
Last Updated : 23 Mar 2011 12:50:57 PM IST

CHENNAI: Stationed right outside the gallery of the Lalit Kala Academy, Greams Road, is one of Art Chennai’s most unique exhibits. What appears to be a long black booth, is in fact a metaphoric replica of a small train compartment. As you enter, there is no need to wait, as the hiss of gas breaks the only other sound in the dark passageway, a steady rhythm of chirping crickets, revealing the time of day.

In the place of windows are 3D images of various sites in the sealed Union Carbide plant — the control room, the machinery and even careless bits of garbage strewn on barren earth. And then, one hears a final gasp for air, from one of the many ghosts, long forgotten.

It all started in 2004 when Delhi-based photographer Samar Jodha was working with the BBC on the memorial event of ‘25 years of Bhopal’. “I got access to the Union Carbide factory site. When I began taking some pictures, the idea slowly started taking shape,” he says. While the exhibit has been set up in Mumbai, Delhi and now Chennai, the idea is not to put the focus on people’s discussion or reaction, but to have as many people access the experience.

“I hope to put this up in IIT campuses across the country, because I think there lies our country’s future corporate leaders.”This art is called the ‘multimedia’ experience. At the  Kala Ghoda Art Festival held in Mumbai last month, over 82,000 people were recorded walking through the exhibit, in a matter of seven days.

Samar hopes that his installation will be ‘experienced’ by around 8 lakh people by the end of 2011. The 20-foot-long black box is certainly an unorthodox entry to an art festival. However, he likes to think that where there are people, there is always opportunity to incite change. “You can’t tell people to stop being industrialists or to stop mining for example, but it involves employing a community but you can reach out to the masses at a local level,” he says.

(Bhopal — A Silent Picture on Bhopal by Samar Jodha will be on exhibit at the Lalit Kala Academy till March 27)

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We believe Dow & DuPont must finally accept responsibility for Bhopal. Until then, The Bhopal Medical Appeal funds two award-winning clinics in the city. Both offer free, first-class care to victims of the gas disaster or the ongoing water contamination. The survivors have nowhere else left to turn – please help if you can.