When the 2012 Olympics unveils July 27, a reality that will transcend the historic fortnight is a creation of art with an Indian touch. Iconic sculptor Anish Kapoor, the India-born winner of the Turner Prize, has given Britain its Olympic mascot – the ArcelorMittal Orbit – the country's biggest public art installation.
The giant Orbit is a 115-metre high steel observation tower at Olympic Park in Stratford in London that is likely to help in the post-Olympic regeneration of the area. Kapoor designed the Orbit with Cecil Balmond with steel donated by India-born steel tycoon Laskhmi Mittal, who remains the richest man in Britain with an estimated fortune of 112.7 billion pounds as in April 2012, according to British estimates.
Recalling the project, Mittal says he “never expected” it would turn out this big. He said it was not just the supply of thousands of tonnes of steel but in reality ArcelorMittal “has given much more than steel“.
Artist Kapoor, who sculpts futuristic forms in steel and glass, said in an interview to The Guardian that the making of the Orbit was a “series of discrete events tied together“. Kapoor said he did not want an icon, “but a moving narrative“.
“You start under this great domed canopy that sits above you, almost ominous darkness sucking you in. Then you come slowly to light,” he said.
Then, there are two other Indian touches to the Games.
Shobhana Jeyasingh, a Chennai-born contemporary dancer who works out of Britain, was approached by the committee of the Cultural Olympiad some time ago to present her new choreography, “Too Mortal” in the Old Churches of London during the London Olympics 2012 Festival.
After several performances at the St Mary Church June 28-30, Jeyasingh, a trained Bharatanatyam dancer, will now stage her act at St Swithun's Church July 19-21.
“Too Mortal“, an atmospheric new work with Indian classical elements, was conceived for churches in London, Stockholm and Venice, Jeyasingh said.
Inspired by their dramatic architecture, the choreography contrasts and complements the rhythms and spaces of these historic buildings. Jeyasingh said she has tried to explore the “notions of the church as a sanctuary”.
“Too Mortal” is presented in Britain by Dance Umbrella.
Nearer home in the capital, noted graphic novel writer and artist Sarnath Banerjee, the author of the best-selling “The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers“, has taken his graphic textual art to Olympic billboards in London with a message: “Games Don't Just Deal With Winning
The Olympic public art project commissioned by Frieze East is made of several billboards, graphic essays and posters. Banerjee says the project is against the sensibility of the Olympic Games which is about winning. “It is a campaign about people who fail“.
Banerjee said he has created characters like a boxer who is thinking of trying to duck a punch, a pole vaulter who realizes that he chose the wrong discipline daunted by the audacity of the jump, a judoka who takes long-distance tips about his sport and a high jumper who lives, reads and eats light.
Banerjee is one of the three artists chosen by Frieze East for the Olympic Public Art Project.