Being a Woman
My second foray into the Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) 2014, was to the charming colonial edifice, the CSI Bungalow. While the main venue, Aspinwall House, was chock a block with stuff screaming Biennale, here the scenario was so different. Set slightly further in from the road, the CSI Bungalow is a dignified dowager waiting patiently and with resignation for events to occur. Lush bamboo and other huge trees enfold the building in their benevolent embrace. The slightly shy yet friendly security guard bid me welcome and efficiently punched the ticket. I stepped into the grounds and felt the relaxing atmosphere settling on me. It was the middle of the day and so there were only a couple of people which added to the languid atmosphere.
The first exhibit was laid out on the grounds, a formation of the tiniest bricks I’ve ever seen. The fallen leaves from the trees above made it look like an abandoned ruin. It was Bijoy Jain’s Brick Landscape. Very interesting and thought provoking. He had used bricks which according to him, “is an architectural medium which has been in continuous use since antiquity”. There were more brick layouts on the broad verandah, much like ruined cities which I believe is what the artist aimed to create. I much preferred the one outside which was more detailed. It was easy to feel like Gulliver when I looked down on the brick structure !
The second installation by Bijoy Jain was inside the high ceilinged room I entered. Titled Tar Studies, it consisted of ambiguous forms encased in tar. Somehow it evoked a great sadness because it felt as if the tar had trapped whatever was inside. My thoughts went on wild flights of fancy; the tar forms reminded me of people who were imprisoned by bonds which were either self-made or created by others.
From the heaviness of tar I moved on to the lightness of the ocean. In an adjoining cool dark room, a video was being screened. Mark Wallinger, an artist from UK had created a video called Construction Site, which showed construction workers making a framework on a shoreline which after completion looked like it was holding up the horizon.
All video exhibits have benches provided so that visitors can take their time and imbibe the beauty of the piece. I was the sole visitor there and it was soothing to gaze at the sea with the only sound being the slight creak of the pedestal fan. I felt removed from the world. The call of the muezzin could be heard from somewhere far away, along with the faint laughter of children from the school next door. Through the window panes I could see the bamboo fronds whispering to each other. It was easy to immerse myself in the movements of the workers and their work. I was aware of somebody entering the room and occupying the bench next to me. It was surprising to see that it was a school boy in uniform. On enquiring I realised that it was his lunch break. Both of us from completely different walks of life sat in companionable silence enjoying Mark Wallinger’s work.
The Pakistani artist Hamra Abbas’s work was striking and the message she conveyed was beautiful. It was a series of 24 handmade paper sculptures in different shades of blue. She has wrought intricate stalactite patterns which are based on Islamic art. At the centre of each box is a 3 dimensional structure modelled on the Kaaba.
Hamra says that she was portraying the fragility of the medium when held next to the permanence of the monument.
I moved on to what has now become my favourite installation in the KMB, C.Unnikrishnan’s Untitled. It’s a free standing brick wall, with each brick forming a canvas for the artist. Hailing from Kerala, the artist has created the most marvellous pictures. It’s nothing short of a visual feast. Each image is beautifully detailed, the colours jump out and some of them seem 3 dimensional. The 24 yr old Unnikrishnan is also one of the the youngest artists at the KMB this year. I’ll let the pictures work their magic on you.
Michael Steven’s V Sauce , a video creation, unfortunately could not capture my attention after Unnikrishnan’s vivid imagery. I was quite impressed however by Arun K S’s huge painting on rice paper. It looked like a textured surface from a distance but closer scrutiny revealed it to be innumerable tiny figures, at their first holy communion.
Though the CSI Bungalow held only a tiny fraction of the work being displayed at Aspinwall House, I felt deeply satisfied by the work I had seen there. Each venue of the KMB reinforces the message that they convey through the official video. You really do not have to be a thinker, philosopher or a great artist to appreciate art. Just being a child is enough. I leave you once again with the video.