Samar Jodha’s photo installation based on the fatal chemical plant gas leak of Bhopal in 1984 at the forthcoming London Olympics will raise some pertinent questions
Very soon the world will descend upon London to witness the world’s foremost sports competition — the Olympics scheduled to be held later this month. On the sidelines the numerous visitors will also be watching a powerful narrative woven by photographer Samar Singh Jodha. The Delhi-based lensman’s poignant work on the Bhopal gas tragedy, “Bhopal A Silent Picture”, will be displayed during the massive sporting event in London at Amnesty International UK, New Inn Yard. The exhibition is presented by Amnesty International.
Though Jodha has showcased this work — the photo installation was exhibited at Art Chennai and Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai, where it was viewed by over 85,000 people, and India Art Summit last year — he informs us over phone from London that the exhibit in London will have several new elements attached to it. The large black-and-white frames capturing the now sealed Union Carbide plant in Bhopal are set in a 40-ft-long container with sounds and visuals.
“There are more images and they’re double the size of what they were earlier… there will be talks,” he says. Hinting at the unpalatable sponsorship deal between Dow Chemicals and the London Olympics, there will be mannequins opposite these images wrapped in cloth which is stretched and nailed to the wall. “The black cloth that has been bought from Bhopal has names and other details of the victims screen-printed on it,” says Jodha.
Compliment Jodha on the absolutely wonderful timing of the exhibition — just some time back the U.S. court absolved Union Carbide of liability, and Arjun Singh’s posthumously published memoir revisiting those dark times already out — and he says it wasn’t planned. “We aren’t playing it like an Indian tragedy. It’s about corporate responsibility which runs across nations and about marginalisation, which is across the board. It’s about the government’s failure and how it fails us in so many spheres like development, rights and health… And corporates in developing countries aren’t bothered about anything but maximum profits. In developing countries there are too few laws to deal with such issues, so there is paranoia,” explains the artiste, who has been concentrating on marginalised communities for a few years now. Jodha visited the Union Carbide plant in 2004 for a BBC project on 20 years of the gas tragedy and that’s how he got involved with it.
(The exhibition will be on from July 18 to 30, and after the London Olympics, the installation will travel through Europe for the next two years.)