Kochi-Muziris Biennale is a beautiful arts festival that transforms the historic Fort Cochin, Mattancherry and Jews Town in Ernakulam, Kerala, into a vivid landscape, and is held over a period of over 3 months, starting December.
Having been to all of them, I can safely say that 2017 Biennale didn’t match up to its first 2 editions in its “spread”. That said, this Biennale felt vastly different from its predecessors because it felt like the art on display was deeply contemplative, and lesser participative than the earlier editions. The war and strife across the world, and the refugee crisis in particular, was a dominating theme across the festival.
The creation which left me most stricken was The Sea of Pain by Raul Zurita. The artwork drew from the lives and, more importantly, deaths of toddlers Aylan Kurdi (whose face-down dead body has become symbolic of the crisis that refugees are facing) and his brother Galip Kurdi. A bit of a performance art in which the spectator was also the performer, one had to cross a body of knee-deep water, all the while reading cries of despair on the wall, before reaching the end point where the Chilean poet has filled up a wall with his words dedicated to the dead children.
Another one was a sculpture called Refuge. At the first glance, it looks like a figure is sitting on the floor, wrapped in tarpaulin. On a closer look, you’ll find that it’s actually a slab of marble that has been carved to look like a refugee. The face has been left blank, so you can imagine anyone – yourself or those close to you – to be that person, and is a timely reminder that refugees are people just like us. We need to empathise more instead of hiding behind the Us Vs Them!
While the previous years’ Biennale were marked by some avant garde wall art that claimed the entire Fort Kochi area, this edition saw a sprawling novel scribbled on the walls through the area. (Disclaimer: I am a real sucker for street art, so the lack of it was one of the reasons why I was a little deflated!)
I’m no art critic, so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!