A day at the Biennale
Arts Speak

A day at the Biennale

Divya Menon

The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 that commenced on 12 December 2018 has marked its third week and this much awaited art fiesta has already got the art world gripped in a frenzy of excitement and intellectual dialogue both within and without.  With a little over couple more months to go, this fourth edition promises to bring down barriers between the artist, viewer and art itself, like never before.

With a female curator at the helm and more than half of the exhibits by women artists, this edition is a biennale of couple of ‘firsts’.  The curatorial note of Artist Anita Dube that reads Possibilities for a non-alienated life reverberates across 10 different venues, through art exhibits by artists from about 30 countries and interestingly, a total of 53 out of the 95 projects feature women – simply put the figures are not just mind-boggling but they are also women-centric, so to say! One of the needs of the Biennale is to be able to carve a space for greater dialogue and intimacy in everyday life; with installations that are interactive and invoke human sensitivity, one finds a total alignment of the exhibits with the vision.

While her installation in a room at the Biennale continues to draw huge crowd from across the globe, Delhi born textile artist and weaver, Priya Ravish Mehra is no more but she still lives, speaks and makes her presence felt at the event through her works here that highlight the art of skillful and invisible repair in rafoogari darning.  The Artist who was known for her remarkable experiments with natural dyes and paper, blending rejected fabric with paper pulp, breathing life into both fabrics, has showcased the subtle concept of duality through her oeuvres.

A day at the Biennale
By Priya Ravish Mehra  (Courtesy: Kochi-Muziris-Biennale Foundation).

The works of some artists revolve around childhood memories lost to time and circumstance and these memories today lie preserved in their works.  The photographic series For My Father by Palestinian born, Rula Halawani is a visitation of childhood memories locked in a politically charged and historically eventful land.  The places captured in these photographs that almost have an ‘other worldly’ feel to them, have undergone changes since, at many levels. There is a highly palpable and deep sense of loss that perhaps runs as an undercurrent in these pictures and cannot be ignored.

Then there is also Madhvi Parekh, a self taught artist from the home ground, once again showcasing her childhood memories and popular folklore.  Her protagonists are all born in her village life and her works have a certain rustic charm and simplicity representative of the Indian village concept.

The Guerilla Girls, a mask sporting feminist art group, known for their performance and powerful protest art, against gender and ethnic bias have put up momentous posters at the Biennale, both within the indoors of the Aspinwall and Cochin Club and the outdoors as well.  The work titled The Advantages Of Being A Woman Artist first published in1988 has been translated into Malayalam accentuating the validity of the horror of gender inequality that is not alien to this part of the world.  In the backdrop of the METOO movement, these works are sure to find resonance within many feminine minds.

That's not all! There are many brilliant works and installations on display at the Biennale that demand literally a few days of attentive attendance, reading and re-reading into the art works with a mind to explore into the wealth of art that has been brought under a single umbrella with an aim to usher in more cooperation and 'comradeship' as the Curator herself puts it.

Curator Anita Dube has especially handpicked marginalized and obscure artists, bringing them together alongside a long list of prominent and established names and by doing so she has incorporated into the fabric of the Biennale, a certain openness that one finds hard to find in an elitist gallery of art.

The different venues across which the Biennale runs are the Aspinwall House, Anand Warehouse, Cabral Yard, David Hall, Durbar Hall, Kashi Art Café, Kashi Town House, Map Project Space, Pepper House, TKM Warehouse.