Updated: December 12, 2016 12:02:34 am
When, in December 2015, curator Sudarshan Shetty announced Chilean poet Raul Zurita as the first participant of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016, he was setting the tone and preparing ground for the expansion of the gambit of arts to be included in the Biennale. The curatorial note that followed in September this year only ascertained that priming, as Shetty elaborated on the theme, “Forming the Pupil of the Eye”. “The Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) attempts to gather multiple positions. Selecting from and bringing together a multiplicity of disparate sources of material, the artistes gather and layer all the complexity of the world into their representations of it,” he stated.
And as the 108-day-long Biennale opens its doors to art enthusiasts in Kochi today, the showcase will boast sights and sounds. The site will have artists, theatre people, musicians, poets and writers working in multiple mediums. “The final list of artists is but a sampling of the richness and range to be found along the art spectrum. The coming together of, and the conversations between, their diverse approaches, sensibilities, practices, creations and performances as they unfold in Kochi will showcase to the world what the ‘People’s Biennale’ is all about,” says Shetty.
KMB 2016 will feature works by 97 artists from 31 countries. Representing India, apart from familiar faces in the white cube space, are cartoonist EP Unny, Malayalam litterateur Anand, author Sharmistha Mohanty, graphic artists Orijit Sen and Avinash Veeraraghavan, theatre artistes Anamika Haksar and Kalakshetra Manipur. The calendar includes Sangam poetry recitals, dance performances and printmaking, and the main exhibition spread across 12 venues in Fort Kochi-Mattancherry and Ernakulam will be supported by several collaterals and the Students’ Biennale comprising works of art students from across India.
While the oldest participant in the fair is 80-year-old British pianist John Tilbury, Australian “compositional linguist” Chris Mann will also present a sound work. There are more than a couple of poets, including Chinese poet Ouyang Jianghe, New York-based Pakistani poet and lyricist Hasan Mujtaba.
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The focus is on dialogue between the arts. With more than 70 of the participating artistes expected to be in attendance, the Biennale will see performances by artistes through its entire duration. Week one will see non-disciplinary artists Lundahl & Seitl’s Symphony of a Missing Room — The Mnemosyne Revolution, where the duo will engage with the works in the Biennale. Slovene poet Aleš Šteger will interact with groups of 20-30 in her interactive work Fire Walk with Me at Aspinwall Hall, and Bharatanatyam dancer Padmini Chettur will give performances throughout the week in David Hall. Featuring on Artnet’s list of top 12 “sound artistes changing people’s perception of art”, multi-media artist Camille Normen will introduce her piece created for the Biennale to the visitors.
There will be introspection too. If Zuleikha Chaudhari probes into the archives for her piece Auditioning the Plaintiff (Kumar Ramendra Narayan Roy Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case), Anamika Haksar’s Composition on Water will discuss discrimination against the marginalised.
With no linear narrative, it is the sub-narratives and interactions between the works, as well as the works and the audience that will perhaps define this Biennale. As Shetty notes, “It is about looking at practices that are outside the expectations of the Biennale”.
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