Art is not exactly my forte, but we enjoyed the Kochi Muziris Biennale of 2014-15 and 2016-17. We missed the 4th edition held in 2018. Then the pandemic hit and the Biennale was not held for a few years. So when we found that the 5th edition of Biennale 2022-23 was coinciding with our visit to Kochi, we were thrilled.
The Biennale this year was different from the earlier years. For one, there were fewer larger than life installations. The one we enjoyed was the large bamboo installation by artist Asim Waqif. It consisted of layered rings of bamboo of different variety built two storeys high.
This year I found the art more relatable as a lot of the works revolved around innovation, theme of environmental degradation and urbanisation. It turned out to be an Economist’s delight. Themes that are written about in journals with hard data and tons of equations, these artists were able to depict simply through their art. I did not have to rack my brains to figure out what the artist meant!!
The third difference in this 5th edition of Biennale was that there was a lot of digital art, and wide canvas, multiple screen movies.
Bombay Tilts Down was one such multiple screen movie that went straight to the core of the urbanisation problem. Stark pictures and videos of large slums in the midst of fancy high rise buildings shown during sunrise, midday and at dusk. CAMP was a collaborative project which used CCTV cameras to capture the city from various angles at different times of the day. It was easy to relate to as an Economist and as an everyday event.
Another new and common factor in this edition of Biennale was the large number of installations by Collectives.
The art work of Lawrence Lek and a multimedia art collective Disnovation put forth the idea that in future AI can take over the role of art. If that happens how is the human being different from a machine, where we were distinguished by our capacity for imagination! The video of Lek and digital art of the collective was a little confusing though the idea made good sense.
Refugee Heritage was an art installation by Decolonizing Architecture Art Research an art collective. This depicted refugee heritage in Palestine and UK through 5 light boxes and 37 books. They juxtapose life in refugee status and the destroyed villages of origin.
Devi Seetharam’s Fathers Brothers And Uncles struck a cord in my Malayalee heart! She focuses on heterosexual male bonding in Kerala society through the male lower garment ‘the Mundu’ (dhoti), traditional white cloth with gold border. She captures men in gatherings, religious or political. Men exerting agency through various poses, folded mundu or lifting the edge of the mundu with a slight kick of the leg!!
Archana Hande’s art installation title ‘Bhoota Stanam’, borrowing from the concept of a deity to ward off the evil eye! She has a collection of scrap, discarded gym equipment, old discarded metal kitchen ware arranged in a room. But has to view this through a chute so that one gets a 3 dimensional effect! Imagination in old style with no AI aids!!
There is so much more to write about and even more to absorb! If we had more time and you had more interest!! I must say that if art does not appeal to you, nor Economics, the location and the view out of Aspinwall House is worth the visit! Fort Kochi and the backwaters, idyllic!