The history of our work in Kerala, and specifically in Kochi, has long been intertwined with Art, and how the surrounding community interacts with it. Biennales, by nature, often blur the line between street art and gallery space, as multi-dimensional and multi-media installations begin to appear on walls, pop-up spaces, cavernous warehouse buildings, and classic museum halls.
Now in it’s 4th edition, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, has grown continually in both the breadth of the artists involved, and the depth of its work toward community outreach. This sense of inclusivity extends to gender equality, a longstanding issue that India as a country has battled with; the curator and more than half of the artists are female.
As with the previous editions, the installations are thought provoking and moving, at times asking viewers to acknowledge and honor the difficult history of a colonial past.
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale, South Asia’s biggest art show, uses interactive exhibits and live performances to help Indians connect with contemporary art.
KOCHI, India — Clad in a simple striped shirt and the white mundu of the city’s fishmongers, Bashir stood out from the well-heeled throng at the warehouse galleries and tree-filled courtyards on the first day of India’s biggest contemporary art show, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
Keeping to himself, he moved from room to room, stopping to study moody landscapes by the Delhi photographer Chandan Gomes that were paired with imaginary scenes drawn by a girl who died at age 12.
“I don’t understand the inner meaning of the art,” said Bashir, who uses one name and makes a living wrapping and delivering fish. “I just like to see beautiful things.”
Bashir’s willingness to engage with the artwork, no matter how challenging, was a victory for the show’s organizers. The southern state of Kerala, and India as a whole, have very few public venues to see art. So the organizers of the biennale, which runs until March 29, strove to create an event that would appeal to everyone — from untutored day laborers to veteran museum curators.
“We are making a cultural festival,” said Bose Krishnamachari, a painter from Kerala who co-founded the show eight years ago. “We have tried to penetrate to the people’s minds so that they feel that it is their biennale.”…
Many of the works are interactive, and on Mondays, entry to the biennale is free, an attempt to draw in local laborers like Bashir, who would balk at paying the entry fee of 100 rupees, about $1.40. A satellite show supports the next generation of artists, featuring about 130 projects from students across South Asia.
The title of the biennale, “Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life,” reflects [curator] Ms. Dube’s effort to build connections between communities, both in Kochi and beyond.
“In spite of our hyper-connectivity, we are more and more alienated from each other,” said Ms. Dube, a sculptor and art historian. “We need to think of ways that people can be together via culture.”
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