The fourth edition of the prestigious Kochi-Muziris Biennale is both eye-popping and thought-provoking and continues to be as spectacular as its earlier editions
Every other year, for over three months, the port city of Kochi on India’s West coast is consumed by intense waves of art and creativity when curtains go up on Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). The fourth edition, which opened on December 2018 is no different.
Curated by noted Indian artist Anita Dube, the Biennale is garnering multi-faceted responses to the realities of modern life and the questions that we grapple with in our social, political and relational interactions. Nearly a hundred artists from India and all over the world have presented their responses to the theme ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life.’
In her curatorial note, Dube explains, “Virtual hyper-connectivity has paradoxically alienated us from the warm solidarities of community; that place of embrace where we can enjoy our intelligence and beauty with others, where we can love; a place where we don’t need the ‘other’ as an enemy to feel connected. At the heart of my curatorial adventure lies a desire for liberation and comradeship (away from the master and slave model) where the possibilities for a non-alienated life could spill into a ‘politics of friendship.’ Where pleasure and pedagogy could sit together and share a drink, and where we could dance and sing and celebrate a dream together.”
Considering that the theme can offer up so many layers, the art projects in the Biennale also straddle various dimensions. Dube goes on to add, ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’ is therefore conceived in two parts: The exhibition, constructed as a symphony of ideas – synchronous as well as diachronous, with effect and matter of factness – as well as a discursive, performative, architectural space called the Pavillion where potentially everyone can be a curator.” She ends on a hopeful note that is subtly laced with despair, when she says, “If we desire a better life on this earth – our unique and beautiful planet – we must in all humility start to reject an existence in the service of capital. Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life asks and searches for questions in the hope of dialogue.”
From the very first edition in 2010, KMB has received rave reviews not just for the excellence of its content but also because the whole project is set in the local milieu. Kochi’s history, heritage and culture are seamlessly woven into the art extravaganza by being showcased against the range of venues in and around Fort Kochi and Mattancherry as well as one location in Ernakulam. Whether it is Aspinwall House, Cabral Yard, Pepper House or the other half a dozen locations, they are mostly heritage properties that have been preserved, repurposed, and developed for the exhibition.
Against this backdrop, art projects by noted Indian names such as Madhvi Parekh, Nilima Sheikh, Shilpa Gupta, BV Suresh, Anju Dodiya, Arunkumar HG, Probir Gupta, Chitra Ganesh, Jitish Kallat and international names like William Kentridge, Akram Zaatari, Guerilla Girls, Marzia Farhana, Rahana Zaman and Leandro Feal to name a handful, compete for viewer attention.
KMB prides itself for its array of activities around it. Without a doubt, walks by the curator Anita Dube and multiple conversations with her are at the heart of it, but there are also music performances such as the unusual combination of Baul and Jazz, talks, seminars, film screenings etc. KMB will be running till almost the end of March 2019 and is well worth a visit, if only to encounter and confront some of the pressing questions that underlie our existential lives in a world that is fraught with issues bombarding us from myriad directions.