An architectural kaleidoscope comes to town

‘Look Up Mumbai’ is a mesmerising documentation of the city’s monuments

February 01, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:38 am IST

(From left) Shots of the ceilings of BMC, Siddhivinayak Temple, Mount Mary Basilica and Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum.— Photos: Special arrangement

(From left) Shots of the ceilings of BMC, Siddhivinayak Temple, Mount Mary Basilica and Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum.— Photos: Special arrangement

t first glance, you might be suspicious. There’s a bunch of folks: women, children and men all lying side by side on a circular sofa, looking up. And it’s all inside a tent-like structure built right under the main dome of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS). You can safely put your scepticism aside though; this is just a part of the immersive experience at the newest installation called ‘Look Up Mumbai’ at the city’s largest museum. The people lying flat on their backs are actually looking up at a series of random but stunning shots of ceilings that belong to 33 of the city’s buildings.

There are 67 fisheye images in all, which have been shot using a well-known technique called gigapixel photography. Shot over a period of three weeks, the photographs have then been stitched into an elaborate tapestry that makes up the bigger picture. The next step is the images being fed into a computer algorithm that determines the change in image, as well as the hypnotic transitions between one monument and the other. You could move from viewing the Holy Name Cathedral at Colaba to the Vipassana Pagoda at Gorai to the Jain Mandir at Malabar Hill and then jump to sitting under the magnificent trees at Horniman Circle. Contemporary buildings included in the list are Terminal 2 at the international airport and the JSW corporate headquarters at the Bandra-Kurla Complex. It’s an intimate experience and a great way to test your visual memories of the city.

The installation, a dramatic art experience, is a striking example of how-to-use digital technology for museums.

It’s also a collaborative effort between media artists Sarah Kenderdine, Berndt Linterman and Jeffrey Shaw; Sangita Jindal Chairperson, JSW Foundation and the CSMVS. Both Kenderdine and Jindal have worked together before, “We’d designed an earlier work, based on the world heritage site, Hampi, which had travelled the world. It’s an exhibition that Sangita Jindal saw and thought would be fabulous to replicate in the form of a museum near the Hampi site. It’s now a glorious cultural precinct, with dance pavilions, artist residency studios,” explains Kenderdine.

In town, to oversee the installation’s inauguration that officially takes place on February 3, Kenderdine seems pleased at the initial response to the exhibition.

She says, “The history of looking up is quite a long one and draws from baroque ceilings. That whole cupola history is quite strong. It comes from that tradition of looking up and looking into an art tectonic space.” She anticipates around 2,000 visitors to the dome installation.

The show also succeeds in creating an intimacy about spaces that might not always be accessible to all.

Kenderdine elucidates, “The intention is really to create public access. Because so many people who come to this museum are never inside of these buildings. It’s also about refocusing your attention and in a sense, it’s almost a homage to these buildings.”

Look Up Mumbai: a fulldome immersive installation will be on at the CSMVS until February 28

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