Going strong on its interactive spirit, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is facilitating expression of the creativity of visitors through its increasingly popular sessions called ‘pop up’. As the 108-day festival functions as a space that is inclusive, the Biennale Pavilion is giving opportunity to anyone to present their work — be it in the form of poetry, lecture, discussion, presentation of a paper or any form of performance.
Given that it has been a “people’s biennale” and going with the curatorial vision of inclusiveness, curator Anita Dube is keen to welcome the crowd to themselves experience the joy and freedom of self-expression. Since the time the pavilion doubled as a venue for anyone to perform, the space is abuzz with activities across a range of expressions.
For, the Pavilion intends to explore the various “possibilities for a non-alienated life”, says Dube, referring to her conceptual note. “I realised the exhibition model was not sufficient to address self-determination of an audience or public, that something else was required,” she notes. “A non-institutional public space for conversations — not only for programmed talks and lectures — where there would be no hierarchies of who could speak and what could be said and in which language.”
In the last week of January, for instance, a team of Kochiites specialising in street dances performed and jammed with fellow visitors at the Pavilion at Cabral Yard. In a short notice, the space was abuzz with hip-hoppers and bboyers from different areas walking in and starting jamming rising the spirit of the ongoing edition of the biennale.
That’s how the Southside Bboys (SSB) showcased a dash of hip-hop culture at the Pavilion that is among things central to the country’s biggest contemporary art event. Totalling close to a dozen artistes, the city-based group enriched yet another evening where the rounded hall at the leafy venue in Fort Kochi exemplified the spirit of the biennale that is on till March 29.
Only on January 15, student groups from Baroda’s Maharaja Sayajirao University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago came together at the Pavilion for informal discussions with the biennale’s curator Anita Dube and some members from the Kochi Biennale Foundation. Dube explains, “The idea of opening up the pavilion was to have as many interactive conversations with creative minds and provide a platform for idea exchange.”
Ten days before that, LGBTQ rights activist Alok Vaid-Menon, an American performance artist-poet, suddenly made use of the Pavilion to showcase his talent: reciting poems. “It was one of the most spontaneous performances we had so far and I was amazed with the visitor’s response,” states Dube. Alok was visiting the Biennale when the team approached him and requested for a performance. He immediately accepted and the Biennale team sent a shout-out about the performance in their social media pages.
Art mediator Marina Thayil did a talk titled ‘The Half-naked Fakir’. In this lecture, Marina discussed about the revolutionary in a loincloth and examined the reasons for Gandhi’s personal choice of attire and his search for integrity in identity and appearance. The talk also addressed the decline of the Indian textile trade and the reason for Gandhi’s use of the spinning wheel in the struggle for India’s independence.
There was also a musical performance by members of the coast guard, a documentary film by Antony Zimayon called ‘Pazhaya Paalam’ — a short documentary on the Harbour Bridge at Kochi and a talk on heritage and social entrepreneurship by Subhi Gupta of the Mussoorie Heritage Center amongst others.
Thus, the Pavilion will be “a discursive, performative, architectural space” where “everyone potentially can be a curator”, points out Dube.