Breaking Boundaries Through Art

On his first visit to India to showcase his Museum of the Moon installation, UK-based artist Luke Jerram feels that the country is powerful enough to inspire any creator.


When the United Kingdom-based artist Luke Jerram decided to debut in India with his new touring artwork, Museum of the Moon, he was sure that he wanted the event to be in conjunction with the Super Blue Blood Moon lunar eclipse around the world.

What he did not expect was the beautiful interpretations that the audience in India would draw from his artwork. He talks to Little India about coming back to the country to exhibit some more of his work and crafting art based on the experiences he has had during his first stint in the country.

“It was the British Council’s idea to make the two events coincide in Bangalore — the installation Museum of the Moon and the eclipse,” he says. “It was fascinating to see people interpreting it in their own myriad ways.”

The installation that is set to tour various Indian cities, including Mumbai, Kolkata and New Delhi, measures seven meters in diameter. The moon features 120dots per inch detailed NASA imagery of the lunar surface. At an approximate scale of 1:500,000, each cm of the internally lit spherical sculpture represents 5km of the moon’s surface. It presents a spectacular fusion of lunar imagery, moonlight and surround sound composition created by BAFTA and Ivor Novello Award-winning composer Dan Jones.

Luke Jerram’s Museum of the Moon installation.

Jerram’s artwork has always been open to interpretations, giving the audience a unique experience each time they witness it. His previous installations, such as the Harrison’s Garden that was presented at the Thelma Hulbert Gallery in the United Kingdom, played with the idea of time. Setting the imagination of the audience free, it presented an imagined landscape and a garden of clocks, many of which were donated by the public. The artwork, titled after the famous clock maker John Harrison, showcased different kinds of time-telling machines like travel clocks, anniversary clocks, children’s clocks, digital alarm, carriage clocks and wall clocks— all ticking together in the same rhythm.

“With around 2,000 clocks in the installation so far, they have been clustered into species and form islands, pathways and borders. Some clocks seem like classics of their time, others are a pastiche, pretending to be classical clocks of a previous era. Some clocks are on the march, whilst others seem to be in conversation with one another,” Jerram says, adding that the installation is perhaps a reminder that we are all here now, simultaneously moving together through time.

Harrison’s Garden at Thelma Hulbert Gallery, United Kingdom

His installations, like him, are always on the move. Jerram exhibited 40 of his artworks in 15 countries across the world last year and is ever intrigued to know how his art is perceived by the audience.

“It is very interesting to note how different countries interpret the same installation. For instance, when the Museum of the Moon was exhibited in the United States, people started connecting the Apollo moon mission with it. Whereas, in India, people instantly tied the installation to mythology and had religious connotations for it,” Jerram elaborates.

Jerram started 20 years ago with an art degree from Cardiff University and slowly carved a niche for himself. His street piano project, Play Me, I’m Yours, in 2008 made him the toast of the online arena. Like almost all his installations, this one tours internationally, reaching over 10 million people worldwide. What brings them together is their love for music. The project, which involves more than 1,850 street pianos, has been showcased 75 times in 55 cities across the globe, from London to New York.

The pianos bear a simple instruction — Play Me, I’m Yours. They are located in the most accessible places, like markets, train stations, and bus stands, inviting people to share their love of music and visual arts. “Decorated by local artists and community groups, our street pianos create a place for exchange and an opportunity for people to connect,” Jerram adds.

The artist expresses his creativity in vivid ways, one of which was a unique gift for his then girlfriend, now wife. “I created this engagement ring for my partner Shelina. The ring has a 20 second recorded message — my proposal — etched onto its surface and can be played back with a miniature record player,” he reveals.

For now, Jerram is accompanying his installation of the moon to various places across the globe. Like many, he is enthralled by India’s beauty. He was, however, also shocked to see the poverty in the country. Much like his work Invisible Homeless that resonates with the current situation of many countries that have hundreds of homeless refugees.

Luke Jerram;s Invisible Homeless installation

The artwork was a life-size glass sleeping figure enveloped in a blanket made of glass. The ghost-like figure without a gender represents a vulnerable and fragile form. “For every person you see sleeping on the streets, there are many others sleeping in hostels, squats and other forms of unsatisfactory and insecure accommodation. I was interested to see whether the sculpture would be ignored and treated like street furniture as homeless people often are in a city.”

Jerram was also taken aback with the level of pollution in Delhi, and hopes it is not as bad as it is now when he visits the city next time. Because he is convinced that he needs to come back to the country to experience its colors and culture for a longer duration. “The music, food, culture and colors of India is an incredible sight for many and I am definitely coming back for more such experiences,” he says. “India has inspired me to weave my art around it.”

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