Kinetic art piece at Students’ Biennale depicts Kolkata’s architectural profile

Kochi, Mar 20: It is a kinetic art piece that constantly creates waves. Those rolls of up-and-down movements symbolise Kolkata, suggesting the eastern Indian metro’s glorious architectural past vis-à-vis its relatively prosaic present.

The work is on display at Kochi as part of the Students’ Biennale. In Mattancherry’s VKL venue, five young artists from West Bengal have their collaborative ‘Wave of the City’ running alongside the 108-day Kochi-Muziris Biennale that concludes on March 29.

The message is clear: small and cramped living spaces, coupled with lack of neighbourhood maintenance, has resulted in matchbox-type dwellings in Kolkata spawning in the 21st century. They tend to disregard the city’s colonial-era cultural heritage.

The oscillating work is by art students of three colleges. Shubhankar Banik, Abhi Dutta and Supriya Karmakar are from University of Kalyani in Nadia district, while the other two are from Kolkata: Asif Imran of Rabindra Bharati University and Suchandra Kundu of Government College of Art and Craft.

As for the wave, the movement spreads across a range of visuals: a flyover with cascading streams of vehicles, a tram, multi-storey buildings, demolished structures, vintage ones with decaying edifices and so on. The work, using handmade objects, demands different material engagement as well as technical expertise.

“We have explored the applicability of various materials as inputs for a work of art,” points out Kundu, 26. “They include cement, plywood, metal-wire, plastic threads, electronic motor, readymade objects, different sorts of pigments, acrylic sheet…”

To the artists, Kolkata — or Calcutta, as it was known till 2001 — has been a city which can make one fall in love with it despite all its problems and complications. As the capital of British India from 1772 to 1911, the city enjoyed the conveniences of the path-breaking inventions of the West. “Yet, Kolkata nourished its heritage in its soul while heading towards modernity,” notes Kundu. “The colonial architectural masterpieces stand majestically, neighbouring the modern skyscrapers. The cityscape, as well as the lives of the citizens, is marked by this spirit of harmony.”

Since Independence and more so in recent times, Kolkata has far less buildings that exhibit the values of a grand inheritance, but they are few and far between, the artists note. They are open to new architecture in the metro, but without interfering with the old ones.

‘Wave of the City’ bases itself by using pillars that create a continuous wave with the help of a mechanical device. “Pillars, after all, are the most definitive and prominent elements in any architectural design,” notes Kundu about the work that took three months to complete. “The kinetic wave signifies the ever-evolving ways in which tradition and modernity survive on constant change.”

Karmakar reveals that the design of the work was the most time-consuming. “Once that was ready, we could assemble the materials easily,” he recalls. “The work oscillates on a very simple technique: the one used with vehicle’s wipers.”

Artist Sanchayan Ghosh is the curator of the segment that features this work in the Students’ Biennale with the umbrella title of ‘Making As Thinking’. “The youngsters worked hard to create a layered project that has brought together a hybrid panorama of Kolkata,” he says. “Coming from institutes that still carry the residue of a colonial past, they try to negotiate with the transforming landscape in the age of globalisation.”

The Students’ Biennale has around 200 participants, including those from the SAARC countries, in the programme being run by the Kochi Biennale Foundation in association with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and the Foundation for Indian Art and Education. The section is led by a team of six curators: M P Nishad, Shruti Ramalingaiah, Krishnapriya C P, K P Reji and Shukla Sawant besides Sanchayan. The participants had been selected through an open call for applications.

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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