66 views 4 mins 0 comments

Students’ Biennale: ‘Mud Mapping Memories’ is an Abstract Display of Nature’s Fury

In Kochi
March 18, 2019

Their educational campus on the banks of Kerala’s longest river was in one of the worst-hit belts of last monsoon’s floods. So, the four artists from the sprawling institution by the Periyar chose to depict the traumatic experiences of the August calamity as their theme for the Students’ Biennale.

That is how the fine arts students from Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit have their installation put up in one end of Kochi, 45 km southwest of the place in Kalady. A vintage godown in the heritage town of Mattancherry gives an abstract picture of the aftermath of the disaster that ravaged much of Kerala seven months ago.

‘Mud Mapping Memories’ at Mohammed Ali Warehouse is a collective sculpture collage that also provides interactive performative space. The foursome behind it, having encountered with the deluge, has used materials they found from the area of destruction: mud, wood, metal, charcoal, animal bones and stones besides books that were destroyed in the catastrophe.

The abstract installation features a soundless instrument with four pillars supported by the bones of a dead buffalo that was collected from a bone-processing factory situated near the 1993-founded varsity. The pile of destroyed muddy books arranged in a vertical manner depicts the spine of the structure. The wheelbarrow with a sack in the shape of a human being essays the dead bodies during the flood. Other things like the chairs and clay mouldings including the strings that are attached to the installation from the side of the ceiling are all collections of the flood.

Kunji Kuttan, who is doing his Master’s, says the collective pools together their individual thoughts and ideas that eventually led them to choose the flood as the theme. “At the Students’ Biennale, we were anyway given the theme of ‘Making as Thinking’. It was last year’s flood that was running on top of our minds,” he says. “What can be a worse experience than seeing your own educational institution being surged by floodwaters!”

Smija Vijayan, fellow artist also doing MA, says it to portray the intensity of the destruction that they decided to use the post-flood debris collected from the varsity premises. “All the materials used in the installation have their share of emotions related to the calamity,” she says.

Sharath Kumar, who is doing graduation, says the work is an attempt to collectively address the amnesia ailing society that is carried away by materialism. “The dimensions of the flood turned our conventional thoughts upside down,” he notes. “It has taught us the dangers of neglecting nature.”

Shyamaprasad, the fourth artist behind this work, says the floods also taught society the value of coming together. “It taught us how to survive in toughest of conditions.”

Artist M P Nishad is the curator of this segment of the Students’ Biennale. “The collective depicts the chaos and agony, bringing a serious image of destruction by nature,” says the 46-year-old, who graduated from MS University, Baroda. “Depiction of the Kerala floods makes it relevant.”

The Students’ Biennale has around 200 participants, including those from the SAARC countries, in the programme run by the Kochi Biennale Foundation in association with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and the Foundation for Indian Art and Education.

Students’ Biennale is led by a team of six curators: Sanchayan Ghosh, Shruti Ramalingaiah, Krishnapriya C P, K P Reji and Shukla Sawant besides Nishad.