The third edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) will feature internationally reputed writers, musicians and theatre-persons along with a host of visual artistes from across India and the world.
Among them will be iconic Chilean poet Raul Zurita, who was announced as the first artist at KMB’16 on December 15, 2015.
This year's biennale will host works by artists working across a range of media – in keeping with its mandate to broaden and blur the labels and lines attributed to art, according to KMB’16 curator Sudarshan Shetty.
“It is going to be an admixture of styles, schools and sensibilities,” said Shetty, long recognised as one of his generation’s most innovative artists.
Shetty was unanimously chosen as curator by an Artistic Advisory Committee appointed by the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF), which organises the Biennale. KMB’16 will be Shetty’s first curatorial project.
The largest event of its kind in South Asia, KMB’16 will run for 108 days from December 12, 2016, to March 29, 2017, and will comprise the main art exhibition and an ancillary programme of talks, seminars, workshops, film screenings, and music sessions across a range of venues in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam.
Talking about developing a project on this scale and his curatorial vision, Shetty said, “I see the KMB as naturally embodying and carrying forward the multiculturalism of Kochi that is nurtured by both history and myth. The biennale creates a space for cross-cultural interactions – something that is a fundamental aspect of Kochi’s historical and mythical identity – and can also be viewed as a means of connecting the past and the present, without looking at them in binaries. It is important that we look at this Biennale as part of that larger flow (from the past) that comes down as a great waterfall to the present and flows through our contemporary realities and artistic practices in the form of many streams or rivers.”
“I see my role as the curator of the biennale as tracing the trajectories of those streams. Incorporating this idea of the streams or rivers into my curatorial approach allows me to see the biennale as a force and flow that continues beyond its own physical time frame and space,” said Shetty, whose work was featured in the debut KMB in 2012.
The following are the First 25 artists chosen for the event:
Raul Zurita (poetry/installation, Chile), Ouyang Jianghe (poetry/installation, China), Sophie Dejode and Bertrand Lacombe (sculpture/installation, France), Caroline Duchatelet (video, France), Achraf Touloub (drawing/video, Morocco/France), Sharmistha Mohanty (poetry/installation, India), Avinash Veeraraghavan (embroidery/video, India), Orijit Sen (graphic arts, India), Anamika Haksar (theatre, India), Praneet Soi (drawing/sculpture/installation, India/Holland), T.V. Santhosh (painting, India), Desmond Lazaro (painting, India/UK), Daniele Galliano (painting/performance, Italy), Yuko Mohri (installation, Japan), Katrina Neiburga and Andris Eglitis (installation, Latvia), Valerie Mejer (poetry/painting, Mexico), Camille Norment (sound installation, USA/Norway), Pedro Gomez-Egana (installation, Colombia/Norway), Hanna Tuulikki (sound/word/video, UK), Charles Avery (drawing/public space installation, UK), Gary Hill (video, USA), Dana Awartani (drawing/painting, Saudi Arabia), Erik Van Lieshout (performance, Netherlands), Naiza Khan (video installation, Pakistan/UK) and Pawel Althamer (performance/sculpture, Poland).
A second list of artists will be announced in the coming months, a press release from KBF said.
The past two editions of the biennale used heritage properties, public spaces, and galleries in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam. KMB’16 venues will include Aspinwall House, Pepper House, David Hall, and Durbar Hall.
The largest and primary setting in Fort Kochi is Aspinwall House, a sea-facing heritage property with warehouses, a residential bungalow, and an office building. Aspinwall House has been loaned to the KMB by DLF Limited in association with the Gujral Foundation.
Other venues include the historic Durbar Hall in Ernakulam, renovated by the KBF; David Hall, a restored Dutch bungalow in Fort Kochi; and Pepper House, a colonial-era spice warehouse that now serves as a venue for exhibitions, artist residency studios and art workshops.
The KBF is an artist-led non-profit institution founded by renowned artists Riyas Komu and Bose Krishnamachari in 2010. Since its inception, the KMB has established itself as a catalyst for artistic engagement and dialogue in India, becoming a repository of ideas and ideologies, an occasion to reimagine both past and present, and reflect upon the notions of diversity and cosmopolitanism as represented by the pluralism of Kochi itself.
Previous editions of the KMB, in 2012 and 2014, showcased the works of 183 artists from around the world, and had a combined draw of nearly a million visitors.
In addition to the biennale, KBF also manages several education and outreach activities to augment art education, and foster wider debate and discussion on the topic of contemporary art.
The biennale’s third outing will present a multifaceted programme that also showcases the results of the KBF’s outreach efforts among students of all ages such as the ‘Students’ Biennale’, a nationwide outreach project involving 60 Indian art colleges and curated by 15 young curators, and ‘Art by Children (ABC)’, India’s first children’s-only art event, a project aimed at initiating youngsters into art and art appreciation with children as both artist and audience.
Shetty is one of the most significant figures of contemporary Indian art. Originally trained as a painter at the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai, he moved early on to sculpture and installation and more recently into film.
He is well known for enigmatic, large-scale installations in which physical objects, composed and joined in unfamiliar ways, become the media for contemplating loss, absence, death, emptiness and regeneration. His work rigorously explores dualisms and polarities as they are articulated through the binary oppositions of human being and object being, life and death, absence and presence, seeking and revealing their immanence in all forms of being.
In his recent work, Shetty has actively engaged with other artistic forms, including poetry and writing, music and architecture to consider the distinctions between action on-screen and off-screen, the real and the imagined, tradition and the contemporary.
An artist who came of age in India before the liberalisation of its economy and the internationalisation of its art world, Shetty’s career highlights a struggle with approaches that are conditioned by another’s vision and with the global canons of art history.
In this spirit, his work is rooted in the knowledge that remains tacit and taken for granted in his own experience of music, poetry and storytelling traditions in Indian idioms, but which refuses to be positioned as elucidating a foreign worldview or a specific point of view on empirical reality – instead creating experiences that can be shared by viewers everywhere, drawing on their own resources.
In a career spanning nearly three decades, Shetty has exhibited widely, at some of the most prominent and prestigious international and Indian venues, most recently at the 20th Sydney Biennale.