The Kochi Biennale Which Is India’s Biggest Art Jamboree Kicks Off Today
The third edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale will begin on 12th December, and as always play out largely around the Fort Kochi area in Kerala. For 108 days, it will co-opt urban spaces, heritage buildings and local streets into a vortex of contemporary art. Known as the People’s Biennale, Kochi is India’s biggest such event, which showcases contemporary art which in turn straddles several art forms and questions definitions of art itself. Venice, in its 57th year, is the template for modern Biennales. Younger but well known biennales include Sydney, Shanghai, Istanbul and Berlin. 2014’s biennial theme, Whorled Expectations, curated by artist Jitish Kallat, looked to the Age of Discovery and navigation that made Kochi and the lost city of Muziris a centre of global trade in the 15th century, and at bridging several pasts through the filter of contemporary art.
This year’s theme, Forming In The Pupil Of An Eye, curated by artist Sudarshan Shetty, expands the scope considerably, making it both an individual perception yet acknowledging the memories and histories that make up this individual way of seeing. Shetty, himself one of India’s leading contemporary artists, is known for his multilayered, multimedia and often complex installations and artwork. Two of his most recognized pieces are the Magic Bus, a life-sized red bus with silver wings at Mumbai’s Maker City (a new installation, A story, A song, is showing this month at the same venue ) and Love 2006, a gigantic installation of a steel skeletal dinosaur making love to a car, which is now in a private collection.
Forming In The Pupil Of An Eye is an inclusive vision, taking in multiple arts. There will be a significant focus on performance art and poetry. Chilean revolutionary poet Raul Zuritas was presented as the first ‘artist’ of the biennale. He, along with poets from Mexico, Colombia, India, Slovenia, China and Argentina, will lead poetry readings and discuss the role of words and language in the opening week. Colombian artist Pedro Gomez Egana is developing a site-specific installation that will use sculpture, video, performance art and the audience’s participation to complete itself. Graphic artist Orijit Sen, who has created the world’s largest mural (Virasat-e- Khalsa, in Anandpur Sahib) will be a big draw. Anamika Haksar, a well known contemporary theatre personality, now in the process of working on her intriguingly named film Ghode ko jalebi khilane ja raha hoon, is also one of the names to look forward to. Artistactivist photographer Ravi Aggarwal will combine 4th century Sangam poetry with a sound and art installation, while British-Greek artist Mikhail Kharikis, who uses the voice as a “sculptural material and sociopolitical message” will show two video installations. Similarly, Hanna Tuulikki “builds worlds out of sounds” as a voice artist, composer, performer and visual artist.
I am looking forward to seeing Spanish artist Javier Perez’s multimedia installation, Inversus Mundo, an HD video installation by Russian artists collective AES&F, TV Santosh’s artwork, which is often a commentary on war, and Nigerian- American Wura Natasha Ogunji’s visual performance and body art videos.
Look out for PK Sadanand’s in situ mural at Aspinwall House, or explore Japanese artist Aki Sasamoto’s performancebased art and Polish artist Alicja Kwade’s manipulation of everyday objects at Mattancherry warehouse. Check out the discussion at Willingdon Island’s Railway station on 16th Dec, on the late Chinese artist Li Bo’an’s scroll painting “Walking out of Bayan Hai” — it’s considered a masterpiece. Photographers Gauri Gill and Bharat Sikka will be sharing their own anthropological and camera eye led worldviews. Argentinean writer Sergio Chefec will spread his text as a graffiti novel across city walls. 150 drummers will open the Biennale on the 12th of December, led by Padmashri Pervana Kuttan Marar.
Performance arts, fine arts, folk art and contemporary art are not expected to function in silos or hierarchies in Kochi –there is room for dialogue, collaboration and exchange. The curatorial eye sees all this within the purview of an art biennale. The next 108 days will tell us if this is indeed so.
BIENNALE FACT FILE
- The third Kochi Muziris Biennale will run from 12th December 2016 until 29th March 2017.
- 97 artists and performing artists from all over the world, including 37 from India, are part of this year’s biennale.
- Cabral House pavilion will be the hub for dialogue, poetry readings, performances and discussions (Salman Rushdie sets the opening of his novel The Moor’s Last sigh at Cabral Island- two of the main protagonists are artists)
- Aspinwall House, David Hall, the Dutch Warehouse, Pepper House, Cabral House and Mattancherry are among the nine main venues for site-specific installations and exhibitions .
- Asian Paints has created a special shade — Biennale White — for the Kochi Biennale.
- A student’s biennale will run alongside the main one, featuring 15 curators and the works of 200 students from 55 art institutes across the country.