Coming soon: An atlas mapping the history of maritime Buddhism

Professor Sarah Kenderdine is visiting 12 countries around the world to create a multimedia atlas that features maritime sites associated with Buddhism. Once completed, she plans to tour the world with the exhibit.

art and culture Updated: Nov 23, 2018 14:38 IST
Soma Das
Soma Das
Hindustan Times
Buddhism,Art,Culture
Professor Sarah Kenderdine has been shooting around the world to create an atlas of maritime Buddhism. (Courtesy: Sarah Kenderdine)

Over the last few weeks, Professor Sarah Kenderdine, an art & design scholar from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), has been visiting remote places across Madhya Pradesh, Pune, and Aurangabad, clicking photos and doing research for a one-of-a-kind multimedia atlas of maritime Buddhism.

“We are driving and flying with a small team to take images across Nalanda, Sanchi, Junnar caves, Pitalkora caves and Ajanta caves. We’ve completed five other countries, including Myanmar and Sri Lanka, but India is the source of the story and an integral part of the narrative,” says Kenderdine, who is from New Zealand.

Footage from the shoot in Myanmar. (Courtesy: Sarah Kenderdine)

The atlas that she envisages is a large-scale artefact offering a 360-degree, 3D panoramic view. “We are working across 24 sets of monuments and hundreds of individual sites. The project spans 12 countries and hundreds of sites. We are shooting with a rare stereoscopic film camera to make 3D panoramas of the landscape. The images will be augmented with models of Buddhist iconography from statues and artefacts,” she says.

The exhibit is tentatively planned for 2019. Once it is ready, Kenderdine intends to tour with it and showcase it at prominent museums around the world. The exhibit will also feature as a permanent installation at the Fo Guang Shan monastery in Taiwan.

Sarah Kenderdine’s 2015 exhibit, Look Up Mumbai, was an installation at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, where visitors could look up into a dome to view images of ceilings of buildings across Mumbai. (Courtesy: Sarah Kenderdine )

The inspiration for the atlas came from an earlier interactive project she did on the Dunhaung caves in China. “Dunhaung is a world heritage site, and a focal point on the Silk Road. The maritime Silk Road completes the ‘Great circles of Buddhism’ balancing the overland Silk Road, which is well-known, with this new story that has not yet found its way into the public domain,” she says.

Kenderdine has worked in India in the past as well. In 2012, she designed the PLACE-Hampi museum, where visitors engage in sensorial and experiential encounters with Hampi as a historic place and a living cultural landscape. Her 2015 exhibit, Look Up Mumbai, was an installation at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai, where visitors could look up into a dome to view images of ceilings of buildings across Mumbai.

Professor Kenderdine during a shoot in Sri Lanka. (Courtesy: Sarah Kenderdine)

“The artwork is based on a series of gigapixel images of important heritage buildings and some contemporary buildings, including Terminal 2. It uses a computer vision algorithm that selects an image randomly and creates a unique transition between that image and the next every time. So, the idea is you could lie and look up all day and you will never see the same image again,” she explains.

As part of her job, Kenderdine gets to visit lots of museums across the world. She recently worked at the National Museum of Qatar, which is currently under construction. Her personal favourites, she says, are the CSMVS in Mumbai, National Museum and the NM Institute in Delhi, the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania (MONA), Sir John Soane’s Museum and The Wellcome Collection in London, Naoshima in Japan, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and the Rietberg Museum in Zurich.

To learn more about the project, visit sarahkenderdine.info

First Published: Nov 23, 2018 14:20 IST