History, astronomy to be recurring references

Dated: December 01, 2014

Kochi, Dec 1: An otherwise brooding air that envelops the key seaside venues of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is giving way to creative excitement, as top artists from around the country and abroad are busy completing their works for the second edition of the contemporary-art event that is a dozen days away.

Homeboy Gigi Scaria, for instance, is vivaciously engaged with his experiment which is slated to be part of KMB 2014. He is one of the 94 artists participating in the second edition of the second edition of the mega art event beginning December 12.

As the 108-day festival showcases works of 42 artists from India and 52 from 30 other countries, the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) has unveiled the artists’ list on its website (http://kochimuzirisbiennale.org/kmb2014-artists/) and on US-based artist publishing platform known as e-flux. The international participants include artists from neighbouring Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China to those in the Middle East, besides Western and Far Eastern countries.

Jitish Kallat, who is the artistic director of this second edition of the KMB titled ‘Whorled Explorations’, began his curatorial process a year ago. “It has been a process of frequent travel, dialogue and self-reflection,” he notes.

pepper_house

Delhi-based Scaria, who did his BFA at the Thiruvananthapuram Fine Arts College, is bringing his “Chronicle of the Shore Foretold” to his home state. The piece would find its place in Fort Kochi’s Pepper House, where Sumakshi Singh — also a resident of the national capital — is working on a project that mixes animation with mythology and shows moving images where the visitors also end up being characters, courtesy their moving images on an array of screens.

Some 200 metres away from the placid locales of Pepper House is equally quaint old Aspinwall House, the main venue of the 2014 KMB. Much like Pepper House which is a sea-facing heritage property built in Dutch style, the 1867-built Aspinwall is a waterfront complex — much bigger and dense with English architectural aesthetics.

There, young Sahej Rahal is working on a variety of clay figures — huge and tiny — to mould out what he conceives would be a curious representation of the “absent city” that is Muziris, which was a port city that peninsular India lost in a suspected tsunami in 1341.

“I have brought the clay from a village near Thrissur,” gushes the 26-year-old Mumbaikar. “The weather here facilitates their slow cracking and perhaps eventual crumbling. I won’t mind that,” he adds about his work that is on since this mid-July and dramatic turns in conception after he saw two Malayalam movies shot in the Aspinwall compound.

Not far from Rahal’s site is where Englishman Hew Locke is working on a five-image fresco. The sketches on the white walls have been emboldened with black plastic threads, also courtesy five assistants of the 55-year-old Edinburgh native who lives in London.

Sudhir Patwardhan

Another Mumbaikar, Sudhir Patwardhan, has always gone beyond galleries to take art to the people, “because exposure to art is very limited”. KMB 2014 is of an international level, “but it does not exclude the common man. I am looking forward to spending three weeks at the Biennale”, says the 65-year-old icon, who has produced a lithographic triptych in response to the curatorial theme.

Vlasan Koorma Kollery

In a segment of Aspinwall across the road, Valsan Koorma Kollery is working on a spacious installation that seeks to remind us of the wisdom of his ancestors — the Keralites of yore. “We are stuck up in many ways in the present that we need somebody to remind us of the glory of a past,” he shrugs, standing amid neatly piled laterite-stone blocks brought from his native North Malabar.

Kallat notes that it had been “invigorating” to be in prolonged dialogue with numerous artists that have extended over months and at this moment to see the discussions take shape as art-projects. “The foetal form of the exhibition is emerging in the sites,” added the Mumbai-based Jitish, himself an artist of international repute. “The exhibition is a dance of sensory and conceptual propositions that map our world, referencing history, geography, cosmology, time, space, dreams and myths.”

Over the last few months, artists have been on site visits across the eight venues, including David Hall and Parade Ground in West Kochi besides the rambling Durbar Hall Gallery in downtown Ernakulam.

As for Gigi, who is a native of Kothanalloor off Kottayam in south-central Kerala, he is creating a piece which is different from his usual work. For, it references Kerala’s history, myths and labour, thus is “very much in context to the place”, adds the 41-year-old artist.

About 70 percent of the works at the 2014 KMB are new. Some of these are produced on site, while others are being shipped from within and outside the country.

Xu Bing

Some of the other artists from India include Ghulammohammed Sheikh, Dayanita Singh, N. S. Harsha and Unnikrishnan. C from the Thrissur College of Fine Arts. The international participants include Xu Bing (seen left), Mona Hatoum, Adrian Paci and Rafael Lozano Hemmer (right bottom). The project has legendary artists such as Akbar Padamsee, K. G. Subramanyan and Yoko Ono while including the works of recent graduates such as Rui An from Singapore, Andrew Ananda Vogel from San Francisco.

Kallat notes he kept meeting with artists and scholars in various parts of India and around the world as part of the curatorial process, regularly punctuated by days spent in Kochi to reflect on the project from the ground. “The Biennale is a snapshot of a journey in a sea of possibilities."

Rafaellozano Hemmer

The curator’s letters of invitation did not propose a singular theme, but “a cluster of ideas and references with which we might rethink the world we inhabit”, he notes. “Thus, Kochi’s maritime history linked to the 'age of discovery' during the 14th and 17th centuries and the study of astronomy and mathematics in Kerala at this very moment became points of reference for the project.”

(Source: MD Niche/KMB Release)

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