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12 December 2018 - 29 March 2019
Kochi, Kerala, India
Biennale Director: Bose Krishnamachari
Curator: Anita Dube
The 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale is curated by eminent artist Anita Dube, who is renowned for her conceptually rich, politically charged works. On her vision for this edition, Anita Dube remarked, “From the conceptual level, to the embodied experience of the Biennale visitor, Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life attempts to offer a platform that operates through radical openness. The exhibition – whose didactic model is complicated and liberated by a collaborative space called the Pavilion – is energised by the interactions between works, the dialogue sparked between artistic voices and practices. The audience is invited to share, to listen, and even to challenge the space.”
In keeping with the curatorial theme, Dube has invited some 94 practitioners from over 30 countries, forming a dynamic range of social contexts and artistic approaches. This edition also presents a new development in the model of the Biennale with regard to participating artists: The infra-projects will be independently curated within Dube’s thematic framework. These include Edible Archives curated by Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar and Prima Kurien, Sister Library by Aqui Thami, Srinagar Biennale by Veer Munshi, and a project by Durgabai Vyam + Subhash Vyam.
Several projects are shown outside the exhibition space, enlivening the urban fabric of Kochi, and creating a new type of public engagement. For instance, billboards by Andeel + Hassan Khan, commenting on specific socio-political contexts of Kerala through satirical cartoons, are visible in Ernakulam’s dense commercial areas. Canonical feminist artist-activists Guerrilla Girls have translated their tongue-in-cheek critiques of art institutions into Malayalam for the first time. Musical collective Oorali begin their tour along Kerala’s coastline, stopping in particular villages and towns to open out their specially-designed bus into a public workshop and performance space – an attempt to bring together and pay tribute to fishing communities, who were pivotal for relief and rescue efforts during the recent disastrous floods. Zanele Muholi’s striking photographic portraits of queer, black South Africans look out from the outer walls of Cabral Yard, the site of the Biennale Pavilion.
Along with being a site for ancillary programming – talks, film screenings, musical and other performances – the Biennale Pavilion takes on a crucial role in this edition. The space hosts a “knowledge laboratory”, an open platform for sharing and learning across media and languages. “There will be no hierarchies of knowledge, or stratifications of content. It is a space for safe disagreement, uncomfortableness, and unease, as much as it is one of pleasure, celebration, and exchange. At its core, the knowledge laboratory is an ever-developing learning experiment that cannot be realised without public participation.”
Kochi Biennale Foundation, in association with Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) and Foundation for Indian Art Education (FIAE) and supported by Tata Trusts, has developed Students’ Biennale, an exhibitory platform across multiple venues that runs parallel to Kochi-Muziris Biennale. This year marks the third edition of Students’ Biennale, which now involves a multilateral approach, featuring, in addition to the exhibition, an expanded education forum, and field-based research on the condition of art education as it stands. The exhibition involves some 200 projects by undergraduate and graduate students of Fine Arts under the broader theme of Making as Thinking. The projects are curated by six eminent artists and educators: Sanchayan Ghosh, Shukla Sawant, KP Reji, Shruti Ramalingaiah, Krishnapriya CP, and Nishad MP.
Running parallel to the Biennale are also the Pepper House Residency Exhibition, which sees the artists-in-residence this year return to Kochi to install their developed work, and a range of independently organised Collateral Projects.
ARK (Art Rises for Kerala), the first-ever international live contemporary art auction in Kerala, saw proceeds of Rs 3.2 crore (approximately USD 450,000) to be donated to the state government’s rebuilding efforts in the aftermath of the natural calamity five months ago.
The auction, conducted by Mumbai-based Saffronart and the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) on January 19, had no Buyer’s Premium — and comprised 42 artworks generously donated by leading Indian and international artists, gallerists and collectors. Proceeds will be given to the Chief Minister’s Distress Relief Fund, an effort to provide relief to affected communities and rebuild damaged infrastructure all over Kerala.
The sale was led by eminent artist Anish Kapoor’s Untitled, 2018, a vivid blue canvas-and-resin work that sold for Rs 1.3 crore (approximately 182,000 USD).
The Kerala government has been the principal supporter of the Biennale. “We’re proud to have been able to bring together the artist community to rebuild Kerala,” remarked Kochi Biennale Foundation president Bose Krishnamachari. “I’m also happy that along with the important collectors in India, a new generation of art collectors have come forward in Kerala. I hope that this will strengthen the ecosystem for art here.”
Apart from focused efforts to directly aid those affected, Kochi Biennale Foundation has worked to restructure its internal processes to maximise impact with regard to rebuilding the state. One such effort is the promise to recycle material used in the Biennale for relief. In particular, the structure of the Biennale Pavilion, which will play a significant role in the fourth edition and Anita Dube’s curatorial frame, will be repurposed to build homes for displaced families.
From Press information.
Photos courtesy of Kochi Biennale Foundation.
Top Image: Tania Candiani, String Loom, 2018.