The celebratory spirit at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) surged on the first weekend of its fourth edition, as the main venue of Aspinwall House had crowds turning up in greater numbers than usual since the start of the art festival on December 12. It swelled even more on Sunday.
Typically, the visitors included not just scholars and celebrities, but the common people equally curious to learn about the exhibits and artists at the 108-day event. From senior diplomats to film personalities to those from almost every walk of life, they were in praise of the artist projects totalling 94 and spread across ten venues of the city.
Andre Aranha Correa Do Lago, Brazilian Ambassador to India, was among the Biennale viewers at the sprawling Aspinwall on Saturday. “Several of the works are interesting and thought-provoking,” he said, particularly praising South African artist Sue Williamson’s installation on the slave ships from the west coast of her continent. “Well, Brazil also received a large number of African slaves.”
“I am also happy that one of Brazil’s artist has made it to this Biennale,” he added, referring to Vivian Caccuri, who works with sound and uses the humming of mosquitoes to address the travails of colonialism.
KMB 2018 deals with topics such as gender equality, sexual harassment, refugee crisis and racism, with curator Anita Dube providing a space and voice for inclusiveness. Titled ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’, it’s a curation of powerful ideas, especially from those on the margins of society: queer, Dalit, tribal people and women.
Deepa Rajeev, an engineer from Kochi’s Palarivattom, finds Malayali artist Vipin Dhanurdharan’s works especially fascinating. “I really liked his idea of an open kitchen where people can come and cook. I had some interesting conversations with some of the other visitors on this project,” she said.
Actress Shriya Saran, who took a round of the exhibits, said the Biennale was one of the best ways to connect with the world. “I really liked the works of Shambhavi and Valie Export,” she added. “I must congratulate the team for putting together an amazing show.”
Jo-Annie Birnie-Danzker, Director and CEO of the Biennale of Sydney, said the KMB helped her trace parallels in the colonial histories of her native Australia and India. “Both remnants and consequences of a foreign powers who ruled the place come in powerful depiction at the Biennale here,” she noted. “If exploration of layered meanings matters to you as an art buff, then this is one of the best Biennales you have anywhere on the globe.”
Author-journalist Anita Pratap said at Aspinwall that she as someone having been to several biennales around the word has found KMB of “high international standards”, more so with its “very relevant” theme this time. “This edition features works that are provocative, philosophical, aesthetic and topical. It addresses all the serious issues, political or social,” she added.
Robin K, a US-based professional from Aluva north of Kochi, said he liked the work on transgender rights by Aryakrishnan at the Aspinwall. “Both the concept and execution have come out well,” he noted. “Also, I happened to stumble upon his performance. It did make me think about the various problems the LGBT community faces in society.”
Theatre-person and filmmaker Anamika Haksar, whose artwork featured in the 2016 KMB, lauded the resilience of the people to come back with an art festival barely four months after floods and landslides ravaged Kerala.
Far from letting the August calamity spread gloom on the world of culture, the Biennale has not just kept its customary date but given added reasons for the promotion of tourism and economic activities in the state.