Months after artwork from the world over left the Kochi shore in March, organisers of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale are preparing for the next edition. Sudarshan Shetty was announced the curator and artistic director of the 2016 Biennale at a ceremony in Thiruvananthapuram on Wednesday. The Mumbai-based artist takes over the reigns from Jitish Kallat, who curated the 2014-2015 edition of the Biennale, giving it the theme “The Whorled Explorations”, that saw 94 artists from 33 countries showcase their works. A participant at the first edition of the Biennale (2012-13) — when he placed a monumental sculpture in the lush and overgrown Carbal yard — Shetty is best known for his enigmatic and larger-than-life sculptural installations. The 54-year-old discusses his impressions of the Biennale and his forthcoming projects, some of which he might need to put on hold as he takes on curatorial responsibilities. Excerpts:
When were you approached by the organisers of the Biennale for your appointment as curator?
Around a week or 10 days ago I got a call from Riyas (Komu) and Bose (Krishnamachari) telling me that my name has been proposed. I did not even know that I had been nominated. I immediately said yes, but there was some trepidation and nervousness later, on how I would match up to the success of the last two Biennales. It’s a huge responsibility but I’m comfortable with it now.
Could you share your vision for the Biennale? What are your impressions of the first two editions?
What I think is not what solely matters. I intend to be democratic about the history of Kochi, what happens there, the kind of work being made. I’ll be researching over the next few months. If I were to describe the first two Biennales in a line, I think the first one was more from the heart, while the second was more intellectually driven; I don’t know what mine is going to be.
The first two editions of the Biennale struggled with finances. How do you intend to deal with that? Also, how would you access the influence of the two editions?
I would imagine that it would be easier to get finances now, because of the enormous reputation that the Biennale has built in a short period. It is the only initiative of its kind in the subcontinent; outside of the market space, where artwork is not seen based on its market value. It is important to promote another way of looking at art — not just according to the price it fetches at auctions, or how influential or established the artist is.
We often associate your work with larger-than-life implementations. Will we see that influence in the Biennale as well?
I can’t avoid that even if I want to, but I will examine the way I look at things and try to be objective. The Biennale will not necessarily have only known names but it will also be about discovering new names. I’m on the verge of diving into it. It is a different role, an opportunity to delve into other peoples’ practises, gather things that could become your own. I haven’t really curated earlier, but in my head I’m always curating, rearranging a display. It is going to be real this time.
Could share details about your forthcoming projects?
Right now, I’m deep into a 40-45 minute long video that I plan to shoot a few months from now. It will be accompanied by a large installation. All that I know is that a huge space will be needed to exhibit it. I will also be participating at the 2016 Sydney Biennale.