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An art observatory

The stage is set for the second edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale. Come December 12 and art enthusiasts can participate in a series of talks and seminars that will create a dialogue between Kochi’s cosmopolitanism and rich cultural legacy. Ninety-four artists from 30 countries will present their works as part of the central exhibition titled “Whorled Explorations” that will be open to the public in the Kerala city for 108 days. “There were broken notions about a biennale as an idea and contemporary art as a phenomenon. We wanted to present Kochi as a site of conflict resolution and to promote human imagination in context of times that we are living in,” says Riyas Komu, director (programmes) and founder-curator of the biennale. The foundation was laid in 2012 and this year the organisers seek to take the event a step forward.

Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat was chosen as the curator and artistic director of the biennale earlier this year. In a previous interview to Business Standard, he had announced his curatorial intention to create a theme through dialogue with various artists rather than impose a premeditated theme on them. “My letters to the artists were not a thematic curatorial note but a sharing of intuitions in the form of ideas and imagery so that the biennale could develop a sense of self,” he says as we talk about the process of putting the biennale together.

After six months of travel and dialogue, the biennale has emerged as a snapshot of a journey in the sea of possibilities. This edition of the biennale was conceived as an observation deck hoisted in Kochi. The exhibition seeks to open channels of investigation and observation – either of the world or of the self. According to Kallat, Kochi in this instance is not the vista but the viewing device. “We are looking forward to the execution of Kallat’s idea and the conversations that it starts,” says Komu.

“History Now”, the seminar series conceived by the Kochi Biennale Foundation, is an important project that will make the event much stronger. “There is a two-day seminar called Terra Trema conceptualised by art historian Geeta Kapur that promises to be interesting,” says Komu. The foundation is strengthening its commitment to art education through the Student’s Biennale – a pilot project that will present works by students from 35 government-run art colleges located across 19 states.

There is also a Children’s Biennale which is an attempt to engage young learners and initiate them into art appreciation. Leading this event will be an exhibition of 60 works of Kerala’s art prodigy, Edmund Thomas Clint. “We are presenting his works posthumously [he died in 1983 when he was seven years old],” says Komu. “Then there is “Artists’ Cinema”, a 100-day public event showcasing films, documentaries and video art.”

As part of the central exhibition, one will be able to see site responsive works by artists such as Dayanita Singh, Hew Locke, Sumakshi Singh, Sahej Rahal and Julian Charrie·re. “The biennale is an example of how a few moments before the exhibition opens, the site itself remains a morph between an artist’s studio and an exhibition space. It is a laboratory to engage with ideas that are open to chance and contingency while in the process of making it,” says Kallat.


The Kochi Muziris Biennale opens on December 12. “Whorled Explorations” will be on display till March 29, 2015

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