March 6, 2013

Kochi-Muziris Biennale : The art of new beginnings - Part II

Welcome back to the concluding post about the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. If you missed the first post, 'KMB: The Art of New Beginnings',  head here to catch up.

... Following up to the awesome graffiti on the building which caught my eye, the next stop was Calvetty Jetty.

Rigo 23's (yes, that is the name he goes by) 'Echo Armada' is one of the most interesting installations! Go to Calvetty Jetty to see this trio, but first click on the link. I loved reading the story behind these works. And I loved the reflections in the water.

At first sight, one just sees this big installation in its entireity.But look a little closer and you see the bamboo, the rope framework and the shifting reflections in the water below ...

... and then you notice the lamps. Brilliant!
I wish I could see it lit up...

I wish I had better photos of the other 2 works that complete the Armada. They were definitely worth including here, especially the one which is partially visible in the second photo from the top.

The Biennale seems to be inspiring all the graffiti-artists in Fort Kochi. I found this on a wall near Moidu's Heritage, another of the venues of the KMB. Here's a rough translation:
Our Biennale. "It's time to think differently, isn't it?"
"Yes, you're right."
"How about a cup of tea?"

Moidu's Heritage Plaza was interesting. I loved the video installation,'Citizen's Band' by Angelica Mesiti. Don't miss it! It's beautiful. Four screens on the walls of a dark room and mats on the floor to squat and enjoy 4 short films of "music being performed in an urban environment". The way these 4 films mesh and blend together is nothing short of lyrical!

Over at Aspinwall, the works are scattered over such a large area that it's advisable to follow directions and tour the place in the indicated order. Break out of that and I think I'd be so lost that I would've missed out on half the exhibits.
One of the first works I saw here is 'Dutty Water' by Wangechi Muttu.

I know that is a bit tough to read but if you click on the picture you'll find an enlarged version of this info-text..
"Dutty Water is a work that expresses my thoughts on how the idea of a clean, pure, neutral space is in fact nothing more than a very well constructed and heavily guarded fiction. In my mind there is no such thing as intrinsic purity; purity is rather our attempt to sterilize a space or a thing to make it more digestible to our minds and perhaps more malleable to those of others."  

'Last Supper - Gaza' by Vivek Vilasini is intriguing . Just as intriguing was the story that the models who posed for it are all art / design students. I can see how much they must've enjoyed this!

I loved Amar Kanwar's mixed-media installation, The Sovereign Forest  .  It is haunting! A long, darkened room with neatly labelled little trays of rice grains. Each one different. Each one indigenous. And so exotically named!

Each one unheard of (by me, at least). 'Fakir', 'Goruchai', 'Dudhukajhara', 'Hatipinjara', 'Kalatulasi'....
And therein lies the story. It is a tragic story of usurpation and power struggles and suppression. Of loss of land and livelihood and lifestyles. Of a people struggling to grow and sell the grains that are part of their heritage. Of industry giants who manoeuvre markets so that these seeds of heritage slip away.
It is a call to remember what we stand to lose.

Rashid Rana's 'Language Series' is like a gift that you unwrap layer by layer. Except, here you discover layer upon layer as you approach closer to this work. Take a look at the following pics :

See what I mean? 
I know that the official text about this work says something else. Probably the artist himself meant something else with this work. But this is my take. Isn't that what art is all about? 

I regret that I couldn''t get good photos of two of my favourite installations. Dylan Martorell's mixed media installations play on the magic of sound and include a certain playfulness that is so refreshing. I can just imagine the impact these installations must have on young minds!
Just picture a 10-year old walking into this room, touching one of the suspended soft-drink cans and hearing the sounds that it leads to, then touching a potted plant or a basket  or ... and every time there is a new sound created.
The creation of wonder! That's what makes magicians out of artists!

Okay, I know this pic may make no sense to you. I just wanted you to have a look at the room so you'll get an idea of the display.

On the wall, the neon sign looks like gibberish.
But look at the reflection in the water ... Alfredo Jaar's 'Cloud for Kochi' is brilliant! I love this! Using Kalidasa's 'Meghadoot' in a modern context and it is still lyrical.

L.N.Tallur's 'Veni, Vidi, Vici' has to be one of the most photographed installations of the KMB.  At first, I did wonder what these 2 banks of roof tiling were doing in an art event. But then, never underestimate anything that you find at the KMB!  

See what I mean?
Who would dream of finding yogis sprouting from a terracotta tiled roof?

Even if they have conquered gravity and all possible laws of physics and seem able to conquer the viewers sense of wonder too?

Sheela Gowda and Christoph Storz's 'Grinding Stones' . I love the way they used something so common-place as this piece of kitchen equipment from a few decades back.
These discarded stones could tell so many stories. Of spices and batters ground, of feasts, of weddings and family get-togethers and home-comings ... Such an intrinsic part of the home, almost like the foundation!
 I love the space where they displayed this installation and it looks like I am not alone. Several people chose to click as many photos of the view as of the installation.

Go over to Vivan Sundaram's 'Black Gold' to get a taste of history. Real history! He used pottery shards found at the excavation site at Pattanam (which is believed to be the location of Muziris) to create this large story-map of this ancient port-city that sank into anonymity following a flood. I read about the intriguing story behind this installation here.

There is a sense of swirling and flowing, much like that of a river. And of memories.

Subodh Gupta's installation is huge. Both in terms of size as well as its story. It is a familiar one in Kerala and over most of India too. 

I've never been surrounded by so much colour! Thank you, Zhang Enli. And I loved the pics showing him creating this (see the link in the list at the end of the post).

I smelled Anant Joshi's 'Three Simple Steps' long before I saw it. It smelled like all the small-time theatres I've been to back in the days when multiplexes were not even dreamt of. Seriously! The overpoweringly strong smell of attar hits you like a giant wave and pulls you in. Seeing it is enchanting! Rows upon rows of liquid dispensers using attar instead of mosquito-repellant, have been harnessed to create a very striking sight-and-smell installation.

Somehow all those rows of lights reminds me of the walls of temples lit up with lamps at festival time. And this little 'room' set in one of the walls just reinforced that image in my mind.

Here's what I found when I peeked in!

From here on my camera gave up. It was growing late and the lack of bright light made me pass up several artworks for this post. One of them was the passage filled with painted postcards by children from various schools. It's wonderful that an art event pays heed to the new generation waiting in the wings. 

This huge nest-like installation suspended outside is intriguing! Srinivasa Prasad's 'Erase'  provides a gunny-bag inclined pathway to approach the bamboo structure. Once there, the bamboo 'nest' is a receptacle for one's negativity and bad karma. Leave it all behind! 
I loved this! 'Chhap', created by some students of CEPT university, uses Kerala's favourite ... the coconut (or rather, its shell) ... to make this. It is so fun! And, having CEPT alumna, Mridula Jose, interior architect and VP of CGH Earth, filling me in on all the background details and behind-the-scenes stories, just added to it.
I loved the various designs on the shells. Drilled, painted, carved ....  I just wish the light was good enough for me to take better pictures!
But here is just one close-up (blur and all!) to give you an idea of this work.
David Hall is one of my favourite places in Fort Kochi. I love the ambience of this old Dutch structure (almost as much as the fact that hearsay links it to Hendrik van Rheede who had the brainwave of compiling the 'Hortus Malabaricus', a database of Kerala's many medicinal plants ).
But that was in the past. Today, David Hall is a part of CGH Earth, and has been transformed into one of the region's most interesting art galleries, promoting local art and culture. It was also the last KMB venue where I decided to stop by.
I'm so glad that so many of the original architectural features of this 17th-century structure have been preserved. Too many of these lovely old buildings are being re-modelled to fit into convoluted kitschy ideas of what 'vintage' looks like.

The fact that it has an outdoor cafe set in a very green but not too clipped and manicured garden makes it even more delightful.
I found out that this where several workshops are also held, a recent one being conducted by Guet, sculptor and artist, for children, in creating kinetic art using scrap material. Love it!
Just as much as I love this. Bose Krishnamachari's LaVa (Laboratory of Audio Visual Arts) project is one that sings to my heart. 
I just wish I had enough time to sit down and read all those books (or at least some of them! )
And this was another section of the gallery where an exhibition of tribal art was going on. Such a delicious juxtaposition of the urban contemporary to tribal art from some of the most under-developed parts of the country! 

I missed this! The Cosmic Matrimony Dartboard by Vanessa Meister and Krishnan Varma is so super-fun and wacky that I can feel myself begin to grin all over again. This talented duo have their own separate spheres of work (Krishnan is an architect, while Vanessa is a fashion designer whose designs sell under the Trumpet by Meister label) but worked together on this installation.
Go take a look at the album on Facebook ... the concept is hilarious! (there I go, grinning again!)

There are way too many works of art which I missed out on , either due to lack of time or because the light was not good enough to capture good photos or because this post is seriously becoming way too picture-heavy. I keep promising myself that I'm going to be there bright and early next time around, in 2014, for the second edition of the KMB. Until then ... hope you enjoyed seeing the Biennale through this post.

All the photos, except the last one and 2 pics of David Hall, were taken by me. 
Photo of 'Cosmic Matrimony Dartboard' : by Vanessa Meister (published here with permission)
The photo of Bose Krishnamachari's LaVa Project and the one showing the outdoor cafe of David Hall were shared by CGH Earth.

Links :
Kochi-Muziris Biennale : About 
Muziris  : 
Pattanam  :
Rigo 23 : 'Echo Armada' article
Angelica Mesiti : 
Wangechi Muttu :
Rashid Rana :
Amar Kanwar :  The Sovereign Forest
Alfredo Jaar :   Article
Sheela Gowda : Photogallery at TOI
Vivan Sundaram :
Subodh Gupta :
Zhang Enli :
Anant Joshi :
Srinivasa Prasad  :
CEPT University :
David Hall    :   On Facebook
CGH Earth  :     On Facebook
                         Earth calling
Hortus Malabaricus : download
Bose Krishnamachari : Interview
MeisterVarma         :
Trumpet by Meister :
                                Cosmic Matrimony Dartboard

KMB in the Press : Art Slant
                              Art Territory
                             Art Dubai 
                             The Telegraph
                             India Today
                             BBC - slideshow
                             Times of India

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  1. Sigh! Such a lovely post, Sunita. I am living the biennale through your posts since I missed most of it while in Kochi. Thank you for sharing such details! :)

    1. That was such a pity, Bhavna! Imagine being in Kochi on the 2 days when there was a nation-wide strike on ... tragic.
      So glad you liked this post (don't know if you've seen the earlier one. If you haven't, do take a peek). I have to admit that most of this would have made no sense to me if I had not had Mridula with me, filling me in on all the details and facts! :)