Fifteen visually impaired students of the city collaborate with Korean artist Lee Jinjoon to create an installation for the ongoing IIC Experience festival.

Whenever Lee Jinjoon thinks of India, the image conjured up in his mind is that of the yellow flowers lining a street, a sight he came across on his visit to Jaipur for a city project in 2011. Two years later, the colour that reminds Jinjoon of India has come to form the centre of his art project ‘The Third Eye’, an installation currently on view at the India International Centre (IIC) as part of the IIC Experience: A Festival of the Arts. The installation combines around 300 yellow lotuses hung on the trees at IIC, which release sound and light through bells and bulbs fitted inside them.

Light has been central to most of the works of this Korean artist, who is intrigued by the concept of shadow, but with this work Jinjoon takes the discourse slightly forward. The 300 lamps that make up ‘The Third Eye’ have been made by 15 visually impaired students in Delhi, in a workshop Jinjoon conducted prior to the festival. By doing this Jinjoon adds to the issues of consolation, harmony — he always deals with — and the subject of human dignity. “We have this prejudice against the specially abled people that ‘we can help them’ but it is not like that. That was the approach of many volunteers who thought they would guide these students but it turned out to be just the opposite. I just showed them one sample and they all touched it and figured it out. My lotus was slightly different and they got the shape. I realised they were more creative and more smart than us,” reveals Jinjoon.

Being common to both Indian and Korean culture, the lotus was consciously chosen by Jinjoon to be the major motif in this installation. “Lotus is integral to Buddhism and both my parents are Buddhists. India is the land where Buddhism started so I wanted to do a work for the festival which would show these connections,” explains Jinjoon who, armed with an MFA in sculpture from Seoul National University, makes a lot of artistic interventions in public spaces.

Rooted in the spiritual thought of enlightenment and awakening, ‘The Third Eye’ exhorts the viewer to look within. “We all have the third eye but we don’t realise it…How else do you think these students who can’t see made these lamps but they don’t know that there is a third eye within them. The light is symbolic of awakening,” says Jinjoon who is always questioned about the presence of light in his art. “Contrary to what people think, I am playing with shadow, not light. Inside a shadow there are so many stories. It’s so wonderful that from so much darkness these students have been able to create light. It is interesting to note that when I asked them to sign on these lamps many of them just wrote ‘I’.”

To enable the students to experience the piece, Jinjoon has put bells inside them. Fascinated by the ghungroo ever since he saw it, Jinjoon wanted to incorporate the ornament into his art and this work gave him the opportunity. “It is not exactly like that anklet but something like that which I bought from Chandni Chowk. The yellow leaves came from Korea. The two countries meet each other in this artwork at various levels.”

(The Third Eye, a collaborative effort between the Korean Cultural Centre and the Embassy of the Republic of South Korea, is on view till October 24 at Gandhi-King Plaza, IIC, Lodi Estate)