Flag lowered as biennale ends 4th edition; aims at a bigger fest in 2020

Kochi, Mar 29: One of South Asia’s biggest contemporary art festival concluded today, as the Kochi-Muziris Biennale wound up its fourth edition after 108 days’ display of art that promoted a spirit of participation among visitors amid a parallel array of performances, workshops, cinema, lectures and discussions.

Into sunset hour, the biennale flag was lowered at the festival’s main Aspinwall House venue in Fort Kochi. An assembly of people at the sprawling sea-facing compound was led by Bose Krishnamachari, founder-president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) that organises the once-in-two-years event, and Anita Dube, curator of its latest chapter that featured 94 artist projects in ten venues of the city.

A formal valedictory ceremony of the festival was held on Thursday evening at downtown Ernakulam. Addressing the crowd at Durbar Hall Grounds, celebrated auteur Adoor Gopalakrishnan hailed the biennale as one refreshing common people’s sensibilities about visual art and updating them with trends in visual aesthetics around the globe.

The septuagenarian filmmaker’s views about a growing familiarity with installation art typical of the biennale found official backing, as the KBF announced at the function that the footfalls at the latest edition had totalled 6.2 lakh. Enthused by the ever-bettering response, the KBF will from its next edition hold the festival for 120 days, according to Krishnamachari, who was a co-curator of the first biennale (2012).

While the KBF made clear its plans to go for a “much bigger” biennale in the next edition (2020), it thanked outgoing curator Dube for her unique contributions to the festival. The 2018 biennale turned out to be the first anywhere in the world to have women totalling more than half of its participating artists. Based on the curatorial theme of ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’, it sought to explore newer access to art practices that made the festival more inclusive than ever.

Bose Krishnamachari, president, Kochi Biennale Foundation, said, “We are really happy that the visitor numbers are growing with every passing edition. This time, we witnessed around 6.2 lakh footfall across all venues. We were really happy when more schools and education institutions visited the biennale and had interesting conversations about the artworks with the team. We truly believe that art education plays a significant role in building up the future society.

For instance, the biennale had an installation that prompted visitors to themselves turn artists in what little or ephemeral way. That was at Chinese artist Song Dong’s ‘Water Temple’ open-air installation that saw people of all ages painting with brush and water on the translucent wall. Close to it at Aspinwall was Keralite Vipin Dhanurdharan’s ‘Sahodarar Kitchen’ inspiring community feeding by welcoming anyone to cook and share the dishes randomly. A couple of furlongs away, the even leafier Cabral Yard venue housed a Pavilion that hosted not just pre-announced cultural programmes but pop-up presentations that essayed impulsive aesthetic responses from the visitor — be it as poetry, talk, debate, dance or music.

“The idea was to start conversations of subjects that are generally not addressed in open in society,” pointed out Dube, an alumna of MS University, Baroda. “I also believe these conversations are just the beginning of more such dialogues that are to happen in the future.”

If the Pavilion was the venue for an Artists’ Cinema that lined up feature films and documentaries by renowned curators across continents, the space was equally enriched by talks, discussions and performances by top authors, cultural activists, journalists, musicians, theatre-persons and technologists.

A Students’ Biennale, too, became integral to the festival, by exhibiting artworks by youngsters. As an expanded education forum promoting field-based research, its third edition, with the curatorial theme of ‘Making As Thinking’, showcased works from SAARC countries as well. The winners of this segment were announced at Thursday’s function.

“The KBF believes the audience got to take home something from the varied list of events,” said Krishnamachari. “Throughout the year, we aim to keep the tradition of starting conversations and discussions on various topics through our ‘Let’s Talk’ initiative.”

This time, Cabral Yard also featured an art room, where visitors of all ages could join activities related to painting, sculpting, installation, music, percussion, acting, puppetry, gender issues and eco conservation among others. As part of the outreach programme called ABC (Art By Children), the KBF organised workshops in various schools far and near the biennale venues. “That will continue,” informed Krishnamachari. “The workshops are interactive, educative, accepting, open and, most importantly, inclusive.”

VISITING THE BIENNALE

“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.

GETTING TO FORT KOCHI

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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