Being a Woman
I’m not a connoisseur of art. My interpretations are usually simplistic and generally miles away from the artist’s thoughts. However, I enjoy beautiful things and even though I might not understand the artist, I get a lot of joy from works of art. This was reinforced when I went for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and it completely blew me away by the sheer magnitude and variety of art on display.
The second week of December saw the inauguration of one of the biggest congregation of artists under a single banner in Kochi for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014 (Whorled Explorations). Slated to run for 108 days, it can be called a deluge of art that has caught the attention of artists, museum curators and people from all over the world. The Kochi Biennale is basically an international exhibition of contemporary art. 94 artists from 30 countries are participating this year and their work is being displayed across 8 venues. The venues, spread out over Fort Kochi, Mattancherry and Ernakulam, are as interesting as the art they hold. The majestic Aspinwall House is the main venue holding the works of 69 artists. It’s a large sea facing heritage property holding varied kinds of buildings within its walls. Large empty warehouses, small out houses and even a beautiful residential bungalow add to the unique identity of this place. It’s a phenomenal site which sets just the right tone for the art displayed. The other venues are David Hall, the quaint Dutch bungalow built by the Dutch East India Company in 1695 ; Pepper House with its double warehouses, one facing the street and the other facing the sea; CSI Bungalow, a beautiful lil colonial style building; Kashi Art Gallery, the delightful gallery which boasts a fantastic cafe; Vasco Da Gama Square, a breezy promenade along the beach; Cabral Yard with its lush greenery; and Durbar Hall, the only venue in the heart of the city.
Moving on to the art, I’ve only been to Aspinwall House and it was like I had stepped into an alternate universe. Each section revealed brilliant artistry that overwhelmed the senses. Art in all its forms was seen; be it photographs, paintings, multi-media or installations. There were some installations which completely befuddled me and I had no clue what the whole thing was about. However, on the whole it was a stunning display of beauty. Since pictures speak better than words, I’ll let the pictures give you a better idea of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale
Madhusudanan’s work titled Logic Of Disappearance consists of 90 charcoal drawings which captivated me through a combination of beauty and simplicity.
Marie Velardi had constructed a brilliant timeline of the 21st century containing quotes and statements from science fiction books and films from the 20th century. It was fascinating to see how far off from reality, or at times how frighteningly accurate, our authors were in their predictions. Marie’s work was titled Future Perfect 21st Century.
Shanthamani Muddaiah’s work, Backbone is a sculptural installation. Made of cinder which is the combusted remains of coal, and shaped like the spinal column, this 90 feet long installation is a marvellous piece.
Parvathy Nayar’s Fluidity of Horizons has a lot of complex interpretations, some of which went above my head. I loved the intricacy of her drawings on wood panels.
Lavanya Mani gives us Travellers Tales – Blueprints, which she’s done on cotton fabric using natural dyes, using the cyanotype method which produces a cyan -blue print.
N S Harsha’s Punarapi Jananam/ Punarapi Maranam is a colossus. It’s a 79 feet abstract painting depicting the universe as an infinite loop. Its title is an excerpt from a Sanskrit hymn which talks of the endless cycle of birth and death. This is an absolute stunner which reposes in majestic solitude in a huge warehouse in the Aspinwall premises.
The much acclaimed artist Namboodiri has always been a favourite of mine and I was delighted to see his work displayed here. Titled Vara/Thira, it’s a series of sketches which show glimpses of Kochi.
Navjot Altaf’s work Mary Wants to Read a Book is an installation in the form of a library containing more than 2000 books made from recycled paper. I loved this because she has placed the spotlight on the library culture which was a prime ingredient in the Kerala Model of Development. There’re other facets to this work which I’m not touching upon which are very beautifully explained by the artist.
One of the most disturbing installations is Artha by Prashant Pandey. The installation is in the shape of a diamond, which according to the artist is the eternal symbol of prosperity, wealth and vanity. The work looks very alluring, with translucent slides of red connected together to form a huge diamond. On closer observation and on reading the artist’s description, we realise with a shock that the 10,000 slides are discarded slides of blood. It’s almost a plea by the artist to stop for a moment and take stock of the enormous price we pay to attain worldly possessions and progress in general.
These pictures form just a tiny fragment of the landscape of art in Aspinwall House. There’s much much more to see, hear and experience. I’ll be making further sojourns into this wondrous world over the next three months and there definitely will be more posts on the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. For now, I leave you with the official video, which is a must see. So don’t forego this beauty. Watch it and be a child again 🙂 (For those unfamiliar with Malayalam, please use the subtitles)