Kochi-Muziris Biennale Whorled Explorations curtainraiser

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The second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Whorled Explorations, has begun, much like the first edition two years ago, braving storms of severe financial woes while riding art’s ‘moving south’ wave. But, it could not have happened.

The Biennale, curated by Mumbai-based artist Jitish Kallat, was for many months tottering on the precipice; there were anxious moments, days of staring cold at the blank wall of uncertainty. There were helping hands, like-minded organisations, and there was the never-say-die commitment and attitude of the organisers which saw the first edition happen. What makes Kochi-Muziris Biennale different from others around the world is its  struggle for survival. And, of course, curatorial bravery and brilliance of artistic
imagination.

Biennale work3If the last edition was both blighted and blessed by a number of controversies and allegations, keeping initial supporters at bay and choking funds, this edition saw a lukewarm support from the government of Kerala. While last year the government  gave Rs 9 crore, this year so far only Rs 2 crore has been given. Kochi Biennale Foundation, the organizers of the event, has resorted to crowd-funding.

Whorled Explorations “The biennale is back again in Kochi; this time with 100 works of 94 artists from 30 countries at eight venues,” said Kallat.

Explaining the curator’s concept, Kallat said that two chronologically overlapping but directly unrelated episodes in Kerala during the 14th-17th centuries became parallel points of departure for his curatorial journey.

“From the 15th century, the shores of Kochi were closely linked to the maritime chapter of the ‘Age of Discovery’, a tale of grit, greed and human ingenuity as a string of navigators, collaborating with astronomers, cartographers, cosmographers, mathematicians, seamen and soldiers arrived in Kochi seeking spices and riches,” he said, while referring to the steady advances in trigonometry and calculus by the astronomer-mathematicians belonging to the ‘Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics’.

Introducing the theme of ‘Whorled Explorations’ in this edition, Kallat, 40, said Kochi was an interesting site to invoke the mysterious expedition of the Earth, “our shared dwelling hurtling through space at dizzying velocity”. The theme of understanding the world through the inter-planetary movement has been presented through the varying forms of art works, “beginning with the first work at the Aspinwall House in ‘Power of Ten’ by the late Charles and Ray Eames, the Americans whose work shaped modernist design in post-war United States.

The Aspinwall House also hosts works of Kerala-born artist Aji V N, who lives in  Rotterdam, and Madhusudhanan, whose 90 charcoal drawings on paper is titled ‘Logic of Disappearance’. The venue also has the works of American poet-philosopher Michael Stevens, Vsauce, ‘What if the earth stopped spinning?’ and  ‘What is the speed of dark?’ The initial installations at the Aspinwall House also  comprise ‘Future Perfect’, a timeline of 21st century culled from science fiction  books and movies, by Seiss artist Marie Velardi.

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In a partnership project with the Kerala Tourism department, the Kochi Biennale Foundation has also invited architecture students from Spain and India to build a prototype for a bamboo roof for covering the trenches in Pattanam where the Kerala  Council of Historical Research is conducting archaeological excavations to find out  Kerala’s early history surround the Spice Route. The other venues of the biennale  include the disused historic buildings like David Hall, CSI Bungalow, Cabral Yard,  Kashi Art Gallery, Vasco da Gama Square and Durbar Hall.

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