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  • Writer's pictureRoshan Dhanasekar

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016

Updated: Jun 15, 2019

Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an international exhibition of contemporary art held in Kochi, Kerala curated by Sudarshan Shetty. His practice of art has evolved over three decades from painting to multi-media explorations that include sculptures, videos, performance and explorations. This is the third edition of the Biennale in the colonial city of Kerala and is held from December 12, 2016 to March 29, 2017. It is organised by Kochi-Biennale Foundation, a non-profitable charitable trust engaged in promoting art & culture and educational activities in India. KMB seeks to reflect the new confidence of Indian people who are slowly, but surely building a new society that aims to be liberal, inclusive, egalitarian and democratic.

This year’s biennale is spread over in 12 venues, Aspinwall House and Durbar Hall being the primary venues. This year’s biennale is said to have works from artists all over the world, with an idea of ‘forming in the pupil of an eye’ as the eye is the only part of the body that takes in and reflects, which creates multiplicity within the premises to experience.

In my two days at this prestigious event, exploring the various artworks by artists from all over the word did astonish me, leaving me spellbound. As the ideas of the Biennale suggests, it did form in the pupil of my eyes, allowing me to soak in, reflect and experience.

Dance of Death by Yardena Kurulkar

The bulbs mark the date of the artists’ body came into being. The lit up numbers flicker unseen, to celebrate this date and its passing time. The flickering light, which appears steady, is not visible to naked eyes due to its high ‘flicker fusion rates’ thereby making intermittent light appear constant. As time passes, the bulbs die, and the dance begins to fade away and are left with darkness.

This creates a point of confrontation between life and death.

This work by Yardena Kurulkar from Mumbai truly intrigued me to realise the importance of life and its journey. After all, each one of us are flickering every day which is not visible to the naked eyes.

Venue – Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

Defile by AES+F

Defile is a series of life-sized photographs of seven recently deceased people dressed in high fashion and arranged as if partaking in a fashion shoot. These bodies lying motionless in the moments of early decomposition, sinking into the finality of being, while dressed in clothing that represents an industry, unlike any other, obsessed with the energy of vibrancy and life. Defile explores the relationship between death and beauty, and brings together two divergent but equally present expressions of time – death and fashion.

Dead, but are still alive. Alive in the essence of fashion.

Defile by Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovich, Evgeny Svyatsky, Vladimir Fridkes. These Russian artists have given fashion and art a different meaning.

Venue – Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

Ghost Keeping by Istvan Csakany

Ghost Keeping is a sculptural installation depicting a textile factory. Built from building materials, its works are detailed in two parts concerned with ideas of memory and monumentalism. The artist presents an archival, by distancing these ghost from the contemporary and present. This is exaggerated by the critics of a system that has ceased to function effectively and efficiently in the society. This work of art talks about how we are haunted in the present.

This Romanian artist has tried to bring the best of both worlds.

Venue – Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

Vanishing Life-Worlds 2016 by K R Sunil

This is a photographic series depicting the social and commercial lives of people in the port town of Ponnani in Kerala. This is an ethnographic enquiry into the cultural and trade practices, rituals and performative occasions of the Mappila (Muslim) Community. How do these communities reposition themselves today? To answer this question, Sunil is particularly interested in how creativity within the community responds to the challenges of contemporary life including globalisation, craft and commerce.

Venue – Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

River of Ideas by Chittrovanu Mazumdar

River of Ideas is an attempt to create a river; a body that is punctuated by islands reflected by light of metal worked lamps or the books that hold the apparitions of projected images of water, and the fictive cabinets of imagined geographies. Although River of Ideas is an abstraction of the river actually, it is also a distillation. It portrays the essential qualities of water bodies through bringing out its ineffable qualities. Rive of Ideas is made out of materials which otherwise would have be forgotten, it makes apparent the pervasiveness of water and its necessary place in our rituals, our habits and our lives.

Venue – Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

Secret Dialogues by C Bhagyanath

The Thalassery born artist presents a self portraits, making them transparent apparent and seen. His Secret Dialogues is a story about layers and about how he adds to what comes before to express the relationship between mind and body, human and animal, inside and outside. Throughout the Biennale, Bhagyanath will inhabit a studio space to continue creating the layers of his drawings on translucent sheers – adding them every day, forming an amalgamated illustrated narrative.

Venue – Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

Love is my Law, Love is my Faith by Dana Awartani

Dana Awartani’s eight hanging embroideries, Love is my Law, Love is my Faith is inspired by eight love poems by Ibn Arabi that describes an experience that she had at the Ka’aba in Mecca.

They are intricate, meticulously patterned and steeped in in the study of mathematics. Her practice and this project is a continual act of the revival of the practice of Islamic geometry and its highly codified forms. Using the practice of traditional textile, Awartani creates genealogies of meaning that acts as a form of medication, prayer, contemplation and a search for the inner spirit rather than the outer. Her works are a visual representation of a culturally specific time and space.

Venue – David Hall, Fort Kochi

Country Matters- Curated by Girish Shahane

Artists - Dibin Thilakan, Fabien Charuau, Meenakshi Sengupta, Mithu Sen, and T. Venkanna

The exhibition’s title is derived from a scene in William Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet in which the Danish prince directs a series of vulgar puns at Ophelia. One of the phrase ‘country matters’, in the play is about female genitals, and was used in Shakespeare’s time as slang for sexual relations.

The show explores sexuality and its representation within the matrix of politico-moral battles in contemporary India, a nation grappling with two contradictory historical legacies, the first composed of graphic legacies, the first composed of graphic depictions, erotic poetry and treatises on love-making; the second of a conservative social order, a poverty of individual choice, and disapproval of alternative sexual practices. Country Matters was conceived as one component of a dual display.

Venue – Beyond Malabar, Fort Kochi

Apart from the exhibitions from various artists all over the world, this edition of the Biennale included other programs like -

Students’ Biennale – An international platform to showcase works of BFA and MFA students in India, led by 15 curators.

ABC-Art by Children – India’s first art event dedicated to children’s artwork, produced during workshop conducted in 100 schools across Kerala.

Let’s Talk Series - Talks and seminars by a range of exceptional people, including the Biennale’s participant artists, historians, writers, curators, and activists.

Video Lab - An Initiative supported by Tata Trusts, KBF Video Lab is a space for experimentation and research through innovative video projects on contemporary art, artists and art practices.

Artists Movie - A curated film festival showcasing diverse genre and formats of moving images; including talks and workshops.

Pepper House Residency + Exhibition - An international residency programme for artists working across various media.

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