The chaos theory

Jan 06, 2012, 06:46 IST | Soma Das
In the exhibition, Sublime Chaos of Cities, three photographers attempt to explore and interpret the idea of a city, its ever-changing nature and the chaos that lies at the heart of the cities they love

While living in a metro may have its perks, there are many who consider it a nightmarish experience.

Mumbai Roulette by Mala Mukerjee

Factors such as congested streets, haphazard constructions, towering skyscrapers surrounded by slums, decaying structures and pollution are considered as the main culprits.

Despite these deterrents, people keep pouring into cities and manage to thrive amidst the chaos.

In a bid to explore the beauty that lies within the chaos, three photographers Mala Mukerjee, Smita Barooah Sanyal and Chandan Dubey are showcasing 50 snapshots of the chaotic living cities they have inhabited.
In the process, they are delving into the complex sub-structures that characterise urban areas and lend it vibrancy, unpredictability and its addictive quality.

Entropy by Chandan Dubey

Some of the cities that have been featured include Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Philadelphia as well as cities in Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany and England.

Beauty and the city

"The city is the oldest institution  where humans congregate. It develops over years through organic chaos, which appears haphazard.

The images displayed at this exhibition depict how there is a sublime beauty and power amidst the frenzy, clutter and aggression," says Chandan Dubey, a freelance journalist, art curator and self-taught photographer. She has been clicking people, places and objects for over 15 years.

Dubey had moved from Mumbai to Singapore and Hong Kong and returned back to the city after a decade. "Mumbai has been my home and when I returned, I felt like a tourist.
So, I have come full circle along the bittersweet journey. When I returned I had to re-acquaint myself with the traffic jams and the heritage structures.

Jodhpur Blues by Smita Barooah Sanyal

But it brought about a realisation that there are several layers to the chaos and a logic to it. Through these images, we are not judging the city but merely observing it as spectators," she adds.

Some of her poignant images include Deconsecrate, which shows an idol of Goddess Durga after the immersion and Entropy depicting an antique moth-eaten, disintegrating wooden statue of Lord Buddha at a flea market in Hong Kong. The image explores how antiquity adds a similar value to cities.

Change is constant
For veteran photographer Mala Mukerjee, chaos represents the stirrings of progress. "As humans, we get used to it pretty fast.

I used to wonder whether skyscrapers and flyovers would spoil the beauty of the city but today, the city's skyline is incomplete without them. At the end of the day, a city is as good as the friends you manage to make there," she says, admitting that she clicks photographs of everything she sees.

This shutterbug obsession led to the Mumbai Roulette image, which shows how people gamble their lives by hanging out of trains. In Clothesline, she showcases Kolkata's version of Dhobi Ghat.

Smita Barooah Sanyal's images showcase the method in the madness and the aesthetics in the chaos. "Cities are inherently chaotic but chaos need not be ugly.
In fact, they are the element that makes cities exciting and colourful," she says. Her collection includes photographs of the sun city in Jodhpur Blues, and explores the idea of safety in a city through her image The Chaos Outside, which shows the outside world through a window grill.

Did you know...
Mala Mukerjee's works have appeared in several publications across India, UK, Australia and Germany. In 2002, London-based magazine BLINK featured her among the 100 contemporary photographers of the world. She is based in Kolkata.

Chandan Dubey is a freelance journalist, art curator and self-taught photographer. She has been clicking people, places and objects for over 15 years. She is based in Mumbai.

Smita Barooah Sanyal is a fine arts photographer and writer. She quit her job as a public relations consultant to follow her passion for photography. She has exhibited her work in some of Asia's most prestigious galleries. She currently lives and works in Singapore. She also works as a counsellor and helps people cope with addiction.

Till January 15, 12 pm to 8 pm
AT Piramal Art Gallery, NCPA, Nariman Point.
Call 66223809

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