Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India’s largest contemporary art exhibition, that is held every two years in Fort Kochi, Kerala, is close at hand. The festival’s fourth edition this year features an off-beat project called ‘Edible Archives’, that will serve art on a plate, literally.
The Biennale, slated for December 12, will provide a platform for visitors to try out a variety of dishes that will be prepared on the spot. Anita Dube, the Biennale’s 2018 curator, says the three food projects at Fort Kochi keep with the event’s core theme: Possibilities of a Non-Alienated Life. “If you are tired and hungry, how will you have the energy to look at the beautiful works on display?” she says. “My exploration has been about ways in which we can engage with each other. Food, too, is integral to coming together.”
Talking about the food highlights in this year’s festival, “the famous Cabral Yard will feature two food projects, while the pivotal Aspinwall House, too, will have one based on food. One at Cabral Yard is a community cafe by the Kerala government’s women-empowering Kudumbashree volunteers. The second, a Biennale infra-project called ‘Edible Archives’, will highlight the diversity of heirloom varieties of paddy, as caterer-author Prima Kurien and chef Anumitra Ghosh Dastidar will facilitate cooks to experiment with indigenous rice. Across the road, at Aspinwall, artist Vipin Dhanurdharan will ready traditional dishes from communities of Fort Kochi-Mattancherry in an open kitchen that promotes community dining”, according to their press release.
Pointing out that cuisine, like art, has the ability to communicate the values and culture behind a people, Foundation President Bose Krishnamachari state in the press release, “For me, everything is art. Good food, like good art, is the essence of its environment. Food can create memories and evoke distinct feelings. It is a more intimate art, as it incorporates all the senses.”
Apart from indulging in culinary taste, the festival will make an attempt to bring traditional cooking methods into the contemporary, where the chefs can showcase their “skills rooted in their own journeys and culinary traditions”. Per their statement to the press, “the festival will feature a ‘Rice Stories’ stall that showcases 16 varieties of rice that are not commercially viable, such as kagisale from Karnataka, kalonuniya from Bengal and thavalakkannan from Kerala.”
From using food as a medium to educate the anti-caste teachings of the 20th-century Kerala social reformer Sahodaran Ayyappan at Aspinwall to focusing on clean flavours and fresh ingredients, combined with rigorous culinary techniques, the festival will plate up a range of experience for people this year.
“The Biennale, as I see it, will be a celebration of coming together and learning”, Dube says.