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Dive into the Bay of Bengal for some art appreciation, thanks to Pondicherry-based Temple Adventures

Art in storefronts, windows, and mobile galleries, anyone? While the world has been experimenting with art in unusual spaces, we are not far behind. We have Hyatt Regency Chennai, well known for their art installations. There is The Park, popular for their Triptych made by Bikash Bhattacharya. “The stretch from Madhya Kailash to Tidel Park has paintings on the wall by eight city-based artists and the sculpture opposite Tidel Park, by Dashrath Patel, depicts fire,” says art critic and professor Sadanand Menon. So what is new? Well, you could dive into the Bay of Bengal for your next art appreciation class. Temple Adventures, a scuba diving centre in Pondicherry, is creating a ‘marine park’— six kilometres away from shore, 23 metres deep, and spread across 50 meters, with rock structures and other art installations. For those who can’t imagine the concept of underwater installations, google The Silent Evolution by artist Jason deCaires Taylor. Created in 2010, in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, the artist installed 400 life-size sculptures, forming a monumental artificial reef. Aravind Thaunsri, MD of Temple Adventures and a diver himself, has similar ideas for the marine park. “We’ve been at this for 10 years. We had some installations placed but trawlers accidentally took some away,” he begins.

DSCN3326Temple town
Currently, the marine park has an artificial temple. “Do not expect the traditional version,” Thaunsri clarifies. Made of iron rods, the installation is a cast iron framework on the sea floor. It looks like a tomb tied to a thick rope. “The rope is to ensure it is not carried away. We’ve already lost bikes and smaller art pieces,” he says. For now, there are 10 rocks forming an installation, but soon they plan to install cars and bikes too.

Life at sea
“Underwater art installations are a popular concept. I went diving in Thailand and they had an artificial shipwreck,” says
Thaunsri. These installations also help conserve aquatic life. “They are like homes for the fish. They create more homes for reproduction and increased diversity/spawning,” he says. The entire project requires around `10 lakhs, so    the  team  go t help  from the Pondicherry government and kickstarter.com, which funds projects. They are also open to artists contributing. Specialised divers will be selected from the core team to place the installations under water. According to Thaunsri, weekends are extremely busy at Temple Adventures. “ We have a large population of expats. But from last year, the number of divers in Chennai and Pondicherry has doubled,” he concludes, hoping to have the project ready by the end of the year.

One dive for a first timer costs Rs. 6,500. For  qualified divers, it is Rs. 5,000 for two dives.  Details: templeadventures.com

— Mrinalini Sundar

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