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January 04, 2019

6 Artworks That Must Be Experienced At The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018

Text by Shubham Ladha

The 4th edition has kicked off and the theme is ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’

For the first time, The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is being helmed by a female, queer curator, whose work is entrenched in socio-political causes and reflects inclusivity and resistance in face of the idea of ‘power’. From starting the Indian Radical Painters and Sculptors Association in the ‘80s — which was about separating art from commercial influences — to making art with themes of feminism and erotica, Dube’s ideals form the foundation for this time’s biennale. There are more female and queer artists than before, all coming from different, diverse backgrounds, putting the fair on the global map.

The theme too, tries to address how in an age of hyper-connectivity, we are left more alone than ever, but are working towards solidarity.

Photographs, paintings, installations and infrastructures; western Kochi is bubbling with creativity, here are the artworks that caught our attention in unsuspecting ways:

Metropolis, Lubna Chowdhary

 

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Lubna Chowdhury began Metropolis in 1991 and didn’t complete the installation of 1000 ceramic sculptures until 2017, when she first exhibited the work in its entirety at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Metropolis’s abstracted towers, monuments and other less definable forms — some look like handheld electronics, others like toys — aesthetically subverts the preciousness of the medium in the history of art. Allowing a viewer’s eye to fall of any single work or larger groupings, at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Metropolis offers infinite opportunities for engagement. By walking around to explore the objects from different vantage points, one feels liberated to access them from above, below, and afar. By offering a range of perspectives to built architecture, subverted through her fragile forms, the artist explores how we can be uniquely shaped by the same environment. Metropolis diverges from and offers a post-colonial response to the decorative relics of the Empire that often sit behind museum glass by dismissing such notions of power in her work. @lubnachowdhary #lubnachowdhary #kmb2018

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Taking 29 years to complete her installation, Lubna Chowdhary’s Metropolis is a collection of a 1000 delicate ceramic sculptures, resembling odd and toy-like forms, as if from some fantastical universe. The sculptures are all carefully placed in a glass exhibit, allowing the viewer to experience the installation from various views.

Messages from the Atlantic Passage, Sue Williamson

Sue Williamson’s Messages from the Atlantic Passage, uses art as a form of remembrance, paying homage to the historic African slave trafficking, where as many as 12 and half million people from the West African coast were “removed from their homes.” The bottles hang upside down from nets, as water falls into a pool below them. Each bottle is dedicated to those trafficked, with their name or age, inscribed upon the bottle. The water dripping perhaps, allows a catharsis of sorts, in memoriam of those who’ve been lost.

The Guerilla Girls

 

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@guerrillagirls set Cabral Yard on fire! #guerillagirls #kmb2018

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Their gorilla (get the wordplay?) masks might be distracting, but the Guerilla Girls’ aim is to let the viewer’s focus be on the work rather than themselves. This anonymous, feminist duo from New York have been talking about the ethnic and gender inequalities in the American and global art scene for over three decades now. Their protest-based performances and visuals resonate with viewers significantly now, in the age of inclusivity and diversity becoming the norm.

A Place Beyond Belief, Nathan Coley

As religions and faiths are finding their power through political discourse in India now, it becomes important to question their right place, or a place without them. Nathan Coley’s A Place Beyond Belief is a simple light installation, inspired by a conversation heard on the radio post the 9/11 attacks in New York. While original idea found its place in a peaceful and harmonious world, the installation takes on a new meaning in the country. 

More Sweetly Play the Dance, William Kentridge

 

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William Kentridge – More Sweetly Play the Dance Featuring a slow progression of shadowy figures walking to a haunting tune played by a brass brand, this immersive dance macabre includes skeletons, generals being pulled along on platforms by bent-over women, dancers in traditional African dress, people on medical drips and a religious procession. All of which hint at the human and natural crises that force people to flee their homes and walk long distances: hunger, floods, poverty, war. The figures are alarmingly 3D, with flashes of colour rising off them and infiltrating Kentridge’s otherwise monochrome world. @wjosephk #experiencebiennale #kmb2018 . . . . . . . #kochimuzirisbiennale #kerala #contemporaryart #festival #peoplesbiennale #itsmybiennale #fortkochi #biennalecity #india

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The ravaging consequences of the modern world’s global crises such as war, poverty and hunger are still a reality in many places. William Kentridge’s More Sweetly Play the Dance depicts such a scene, as a darkly sweet procession of skeletons, traditional African dancers in their costumery and other imagery that’s rendered in 3D forms which are hard to forget. The quote by Cesar A. Cruz that, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comforted”, is very commonly floated across, but in very seldom moments — like at this exhibit — ring true.

String Loom, Tania Candiani

Kerala, India was destroyed by one of the most severe floods it has faced in history, and along with taking away livelihoods, it also impacted its weaving community — a business that much of Kerala survives on, even though it was on the verge of dying — in dire ways. As the business is being brought back to life now, there are also those looms that were irreparably damaged. Tania Candiani’s repurposed one such loom to provide a completely new service; to make music.

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