After a four-year hiatus, Kochi is set to host its prestigious art and cultural exhibition The Kochi Muziris Biennale.
The inauguration of this year’s Biennale will be on 12 December at the Parade Ground of Fort Kochi, at the hands of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
At the helm of the Biennale is founder Bose Krishnamachari, a Kerala-born painter who resides in Mumbai.
Recently, Krishnamachari was recognised in the Power 100 – Most influential people in 2022 in the contemporary art world, by Art Review Magazine.
Krishnamachari extended the credit of this recognition to the Kochi Muziris Biennale and says: “Today I’m perhaps best known as the cofounder and director of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which takes place in Kerala and has become — according to ArtReview — ‘a role-model event for largescale exhibitions in the Global South’.”
He added: “I started out as a painter and continue to exhibit my work. Through each edition of the Biennale, a reinvention of the site occurs, incorporating talks and education programmes, a Student Biennale and architectural programmes.”
He also said: “I’m proud to have been a co-founder and accept this accolade on behalf of all our teams, artists and supporters, including the vision and generosity of the government of Kerala.”
Past and present
The fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is expected to have over 200 projects spread across heritage properties and warehouses, galleries, and public spaces across Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, in the Ernakulam district.
The central exhibition, “In Our Veins Flow Ink and Fire”, curated by Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao, will run until 10 April, 2023.
Featuring 90 artists and over 40 new commissions, it will be at the historic Aspinwall House, Pepper House, and Anand Warehouse in Fort Kochi.
The current edition of the Biennale was planned for the year 2020. However, the Covid-19 pandemic led the event to being postponed.
During the pandemic, the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation was able to host an exhibition titled “Lokame Tharavaadu”, which translates as “The World is One Family”. Held in Alappuzha, it showcased the works of 267 artists from Kerala.
The curator for the latest edition of the Biennale, Shubigi Rao, shared her excitement about the return of the event.
According to her: “Returning after a gap of four years, the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale examines —through song, materiality, joy, humour, and through language, whether written, verbal, and oral — how we survive.”
She added: “After the states of fear, trauma, and the uncertainty of the pandemic years, it may seem strange to call for joy. Where is this optimism? Perhaps we can sense it more tangibly in artistic and collective work, especially in regional or particular contexts and forms, of the artists gathered here, in this Biennale.”
Krishnamachari considered Biennale turning 10 years old an important moment to reflect, repair, and recalibrate.
“We return our focus to thinking globally from an intimately local perspective, learning from Kochi’s unique history and relationship to the Indian Ocean and trade routes. Our flagship programmes — Students’ Biennale and Art By Children — are now joined by an exciting new programme called ‘Invitations’ that brings the exhibition formats from Asia and Africa to share our primary sites in Fort Kochi,” he said.
Krishnamachari, who is also the president of the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation, said he was grateful to the people of Kochi and the Kerala government for their supporting role in the creation and sustenance of the Biennale.
According to him, the support by the state and the artistic community had made a considerable impact on the artistic sensibilities of the people. He claimed the Biennale had “contributed to the cultural life of the state and created a new generation of connoisseurs”.
Krishnamachari believes the artist community and the patrons have always stood by the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation and offered their “unflinching support” to it.
He said: “The project has — over the years — created a real sense of camaraderie among those involved, and we respect and appreciate their belief in the foundation.”