THE CULTURE SHOW THE CULTURE SHOW
India Abroad February 15, 2013
ON ART ON ART
installation, Erase, is
a thorny ‘cocoon’
that hangs over a set
of steps made with
gunny bags. Viewers
are encouraged to
leave bad or
memories and fears
inside the hollow of
It is India’s first-ever New Age art extravaganza. No wonder then,
art lover Durga Dominic left behind both her family and her job
for a few days to get a glimpse of the Kochi-Muziris Art Biennale
Photographs: Rajesh Karkera
On a regular day, the port town of Fort Kochi, Kerala, would snooze in the sun, luxuriating against the backdrop of its Chinese fishing nets, Jewish synagogue, artifact- and spice- laden shops, cafe dotted streets and home stays.
Tourists would stroll around, soaking in the ambience; residents would calmly make their way through the day.
These days, Kochi is buzzing with a different, very palpable
energy; visitors see and experience art all around them at the
Kochi-Muziris Art Biennale, India’s very first, which opened
on that magical date — 12.12.12.
A Biennale is an international art show held every two
years. Unlike an art fair, a Biennale is for exhibition purposes only, so it is meant for everyone.
Though India is hosting this new-art extravaganza for the
first time, the Biennale has a history dating back to 1895; it
was first hosted in the beautiful Italian city of Venice.
Today, it has spawned over 150 editions across the globe.
The fact that the Kochi Biennale is the only Indian destination mentioned in Forbes magazine’s list of ‘13 cultural
events to be seen’ across the world gives to you an idea of its
As you entered Kochi, a huge hoarding welcomed you to
the Biennale city.
Though many locals had heard about the art extravaganza
even before it began, they weren’t sure what it was about.
The autorickshaw drivers, on the other hand, were enthusiastic and helpful.
‘Binnale?’ they would ask, if they saw you wandering
We visited Aspinwall House, a British-era warehouse, and
one of the many Biennale venues spread around Fort Kochi.
The place was buzzing with activity!
The day before the opening, artists battled labor and logistical issues as they frantically tried to get their works up; carpenters and electricians raced against time to get the place
ready as per the artist’s vision. Many works that were stuck
with the customs department came in only that evening.
Justin Ponmany, one of the participating artists, was worried that many of the installations — these include paintings,
sculptures and new media and performance art installations
— would not be ready before the opening.
But that very act, of viewing an art work in progress, gave
you the feeling that you were somehow part of it. It was more
exciting than viewing a finished art work with a sense of
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