Caccuri’s biennale work looks at how mosquitoes have shaped colonial history

Kochi, Mar 3: Having reached southern India from another tropical zone in her native Brazil, Vivian Caccuri’s could easily relate to the buzz and bite of that insect common to both countries: mosquito. At the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the 32-year-old artist has a multi-media installation on display, narrating more about the relationship mosquitoes share with humanity.

Caccuri’s work at sea-facing Pepper House in Fort Kochi features a mosquito net, chimes, ultra-violet light and speakers that play the sound of mosquitoes mating.

Using sound as a way to cross-experiment, the ‘Mosquito Shrine’ examines the insect’s sense of perception, notes certain historical points essentially related with its disease-spreading capacity and takes a look at the role it plays in social conditioning. The work also triggers a vital question: why does the mosquito noise cause so much duress in humans?

The Rio de Janeiro-based artist got the idea earlier this decade when she was in Ghana. The West African country was facing yet another bout of malaria, and Caccuri noticed herself getting increasingly conscious about mosquitoes despite her familiarity with the insect from childhood. “I think the fear has a colonial origin,” she says. “For, as mosquito bite has been not that dangerous for the people of the global south as it has been with their European oppressors. I believe the insect, thereby, decelerated the process of colonisation.”

São Paulo-born Caccuri’s sounds in the biennale artwork are an extension of similar works she has done earlier. In Kochi, though, the heavier bass sounds in her previous projects give way to a more delicate buzzing of the mosquito.

At the biennale, she uses multiple elements for this particular installation, including a tower of speakers that emits a composition based on the insect’s mating noise. There is a sculpture made of netting, besides “Pagode” screens on which the artist has embroidered scientific and mythical passages about the mosquito. Also, UV lamps bring mosquitoes to the space. The sound, she says, has been tuned with the goal of attracting male mosquitoes.

“By acknowledging the mosquito instead of repelling it, I investigate whether it can become a contemporary deity of sorts. One that represents subcultural values in our predominantly capitalist, neo-colonial society,” says Caccuri, who was a 2018 finalist at the PIPA (Photobox Instagram Photography Awards).

Through objects, installations and performances, the artist create situations that disorient everyday experience. This, by extension, disrupt meanings and narratives seemingly as ingrained as the cognitive structure itself, critics note.

Caccuri believes that the dislike towards these insects could have possibly had a deeper subconscious meaning. “What if we are remembering something from a different past or different world? More on the line of psychoanalysis where the fear of the disease is stronger?” says the artist, who earlier participated in the 2016 São Paulo Art Biennial.

The artist has developed similar projects in several cities in Brazil and outside, including the Amazon, Accra, Detroit, Helsinki, Vienna, Veneza, Kiev and Valparaíso.


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“The fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale runs from 12 December, 2018 – 29 March, 2019.“
Venues are open every day from 10 AM – 6 PM.
Tickets are available for purchase for ₹100 at Aspinwall House.

Universal free entry every Monday.


By Air: Fort Kochi is 45 km from Kochi International Airport, Nedumbassery.
By Train: Fort Kochi is 13 km from Ernakulam Junction (South) Station and 16 km from Ernakulam Town (North) Station.
By Boat: Fort Kochi is 20 mins from the Ernakulam Boat Jetty and 10 mins from both Willingdon Island and Vypin Boat Jetty.
By Bus: Fort Kochi is 15 km from the main bus station in Ernakulam.

Many of the locations of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale are walking distances from each other (most are around 10 minutes or so).


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