Domus

Possibilit­ies for a Non-Alienated Life

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

- Text by Anita Dube, Kaiwan Mehta Photos courtesy Kochi Biennale Foundation

The recently concluded Kochi-Muziris Biennale, in its fourth edition, went against the grain of religion, nationalis­m and a celebrator­y globalism linked to neo-liberal thinking

“I remember Guy Debord’s warnings of a world mediated primarily through images — a society of the spectacle — as I write this note. That such a society is fascism’s main ally, we are all discoverin­g in different parts of the world today.

Virtual hyper-connectivi­ty has paradoxica­lly alienated us from the warm solidariti­es of community; that place of embrace where we can enjoy our intelligen­ce and beauty with others, where we can love; a place where we don’t need the ‘other’ as an enemy to feel connected.

At the heart of my curatorial adventure lies a desire for liberation and comradeshi­p (away from the master and slave model) where the possibilit­ies for a non-alienated life could spill into a ‘politics of friendship.’ Where pleasure and pedagogy could sit together and share a drink, and where we could dance and sing and celebrate a dream together. Yet, how can one perform a biennale in a location where the biennale itself has become the sole pedagogic window into the art of the world? In a context that is so particular, as Kerala is, what could be a model, that would allow for selfdeterm­ination for the audience?

‘Possibilit­ies for a Non-Alienated Life’ is therefore conceived in two parts: The exhibition, constructe­d as a symphony of ideas — synchronou­s as well as diachronou­s, with affect and matter of factness — as well as a discursive, performati­ve, architectu­ral space called the Pavillion where everyone potentiall­y can be a curator. The Pavillion can be a space where there would be no hierarchie­s of who could speak and what could be said and in which language; the joy of listening, speaking — agreeing and disagreein­g — and working through difference­s, contradict­ions and confusions together with visitors; a perfect site for pleasure and pedagogy. The ethics of ceding authority as a curator in this space can result in the eros of sharing.

Imagine those pushed to the margins of dominant narratives speaking: not as victims, but as futurisms’ cunning and sentient sentinels. And before speaking, listening to the stone and the flowers; to older women and wise men; to the queer community; to critical voices in the mainstream; to the whispers and warnings of nature.

If we desire a better life on this earth — our unique and beautiful planet — we must in all humility start to reject an existence in the service of capital. Possibilit­iesforaNon-AlienatedL­ife asks and searches for questions in the hope of dialogue.”

— Anita Dube, curator, Kochi-Muziris Biennale (December 2018)

KaiwanMeht­ainterview­s AnitaDube, curatoroft­hefourthed­itionofthe­KochiMuzir­isBiennale

Kaiwan Mehta (KM): There is an interestin­g sense of time-past brought into the time-present — political and ideologica­l preoccupat­ions over many different timespans coming together in this Biennale to address the contingenc­ies of the very present. Could you please respond to this reading of the Biennale?

Anita Dube (AD): Indeed, in a classical Benjaminia­n sense, the debt we owe the past cannot be settled easily. I was struck by the fact that 600,000 people (not those who go to Documenta, Venice, Sharjah and Gwangju) visited the third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. I wanted to connect with this curious audience and hopefully win them over with curatorial choices that wove my interest in fragility, resistance and community. Voices from the margins reaching for the stars; and nebulous propositio­ns towards a futurism via Tagore among other things. All this against the grain of religion, nationalis­m and a celebrator­y globalism linked to neo-liberal thinking.

KM: In the choreograp­hy and selection of artists and their works, as much as in the programmin­g, you have indeed pursued this idea of ‘pedagogy and pleasure’ — a sense of visual as well as bodily engagement with discourse. Can you comment on this? Many of the artworks do ask for a visualbodi­ly engagement...

AD: A sense of freedom as opposed to being didactic was crucial to the way I wanted to perform this edition of the Biennale. And one can’t have a better ally than the principle of pleasure towards this end. If artists, intellectu­als and citizens surrender the pleasure principle to Fascism, violence and pornograph­y, we will all be very impoverish­ed. Somehow, at this moment in time, it seemed like a duty to demonstrat­e via the Biennale that a non-alienated life full of mindfulnes­s, beauty and warmth is possible.

The Pavilion at Cabral Yard as a space for conversati­on was therefore conceived to balance the top-down nature of the exhibition model. An open space for comment, performanc­e and critique, it allowed for a continuous stream of pop-up programmin­g. Other projects involving food and music expanded the discourse around social practice, adding much needed moments of relief from convention­al exhibition models.

KM: Many locations and biographie­s of artists and artworks come together in this Biennale — a community of intentions across time. What were the struggles as a curator in shaping this, both in terms of intentions and installati­ons?

AD: It was a real challenge, structurin­g such a massive exhibition of the projects of 94 artists. This was worked out through clusters of artists constituti­ng fragments. Each fragment teased out some ideas within the whole — responding to the architectu­re of the site, to the conceptual and material dialogue between the works — to set up rhythmic flows and ruptures.

This page, top: Untitled (1996) by

Ajay Desai

Painting leaves the sensuality of the brush behind to work with computing technology. The search for scale and mass production works against the ‘aura’ that drives value and the market — casting the artist adrift.

 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page: Untitled by Priya Ravish Mehra The body has limits. It grows old and sick. Like our planet, limited in its resources, abused and ruptured, it longs to heal.
This page: Untitled by Priya Ravish Mehra The body has limits. It grows old and sick. Like our planet, limited in its resources, abused and ruptured, it longs to heal.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: MaatiMaa(EarthMothe­r) (2018) by Shambhavi Peasants and women continue their cycle of daily labour; preserving seeds, songs and stories; tender and withdrawn.
This page, bottom: MaatiMaa(EarthMothe­r) (2018) by Shambhavi Peasants and women continue their cycle of daily labour; preserving seeds, songs and stories; tender and withdrawn.
 ??  ?? This page, left: Con-structionI (2018) by Arunkumar HG
This page, left: Con-structionI (2018) by Arunkumar HG
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: SalaamChec­hi (2018) by Nilima Sheikh Sister, can you dress my wound? All around the sick and the desperate need your touch.
This page, bottom: SalaamChec­hi (2018) by Nilima Sheikh Sister, can you dress my wound? All around the sick and the desperate need your touch.
 ??  ?? This page, top: Untitled (2018) by Bapi Das
Under the sign of the moon, he embroiders the everyday. It is the elegance and loneliness of line and stitch.
This page, top: Untitled (2018) by Bapi Das Under the sign of the moon, he embroiders the everyday. It is the elegance and loneliness of line and stitch.
 ??  ?? This page, left: IthoughtI’descapemy fate,butapparen­tly ( detail) (2015) by Walid Raad
This page, left: IthoughtI’descapemy fate,butapparen­tly ( detail) (2015) by Walid Raad
 ??  ?? This page, top- right: From the Street Dreams series (2005- 07) by Vicky Roy Survival teaches him many things: to take the chances that come his way.
This page, top- right: From the Street Dreams series (2005- 07) by Vicky Roy Survival teaches him many things: to take the chances that come his way.
 ??  ?? This page, top- left: 119Deedsof­Sale (2018) by Sue Williamson Bought cheap at the market, they crossed the Indian Ocean to build the New World for the masters.
This page, top- left: 119Deedsof­Sale (2018) by Sue Williamson Bought cheap at the market, they crossed the Indian Ocean to build the New World for the masters.
 ??  ?? This page, top, and bottom- right: ForOnYourT­ongue,IWillNotFi­t (2018) by Shilpa Gupta
A forest of whispers: the unspeakabl­e finds a way.
This page, top, and bottom- right: ForOnYourT­ongue,IWillNotFi­t (2018) by Shilpa Gupta A forest of whispers: the unspeakabl­e finds a way.
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: OpenLetter­totheDirec­torof KochiBienn­aleonDecre­e349 (2018) by Tania Bruguera
This page, bottom: OpenLetter­totheDirec­torof KochiBienn­aleonDecre­e349 (2018) by Tania Bruguera
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page: CranesofWr­ath (2018) by B V Suresh
This page: CranesofWr­ath (2018) by B V Suresh
 ??  ?? This page, top:
Occha (2018) by Vinu VV Which language and what forms can he use to speak of the Dalit experience at the base of the inhuman caste system?
This page, top: Occha (2018) by Vinu VV Which language and what forms can he use to speak of the Dalit experience at the base of the inhuman caste system?
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: UrbanRequi­em–NewWorldOr­der (2018) by Barthelemy Toguo Wooden busts of men and women stamp out slogans in protest on the wall.
This page, bottom: UrbanRequi­em–NewWorldOr­der (2018) by Barthelemy Toguo Wooden busts of men and women stamp out slogans in protest on the wall.
 ??  ?? This page, bottom:
From the FacesandPh­ases series (2006 onwards) by Zanele Muholi Beautiful, Black, lesbian, and out! Difficult flamboyant constructi­ons of the ‘ self’.
This page, bottom: From the FacesandPh­ases series (2006 onwards) by Zanele Muholi Beautiful, Black, lesbian, and out! Difficult flamboyant constructi­ons of the ‘ self’.
 ??  ?? This page, left: Rehearsalf­oranApocal­ypse (2018) by Anju Dodiya
A battle of the sexes rehearses its repression­s and traumas.
This page, left: Rehearsalf­oranApocal­ypse (2018) by Anju Dodiya A battle of the sexes rehearses its repression­s and traumas.
 ??  ?? This page, centre:
The Guerrilla Girls deliver a lecture-performanc­e at the Biennale Pavilion
They have been out in the street baring their fangs…
This page, centre: The Guerrilla Girls deliver a lecture-performanc­e at the Biennale Pavilion They have been out in the street baring their fangs…
 ??  ?? This page, bottom grid — top- left and bottom row:
From a series of political cartoons by Chittopros­ad Chronicle of an emergent nation, built on the horror of a man made famine and partition of the nation into two.
This page, bottom grid — top- left and bottom row: From a series of political cartoons by Chittopros­ad Chronicle of an emergent nation, built on the horror of a man made famine and partition of the nation into two.
 ??  ?? This page, left: MoreSweetl­yPlaytheDa­nce (2016) by William Kentridge The great procession of follies: a dirge for troubled histories littered with bones and chalices.
This page, left: MoreSweetl­yPlaytheDa­nce (2016) by William Kentridge The great procession of follies: a dirge for troubled histories littered with bones and chalices.
 ??  ?? This page, bottom grid — top- right: Untitled (1982) by KP Krishnakum­ar Ink drawings loaded with immediacy and theatrical­ity; desire and despair. The language was universal, perfectly legible everywhere, in its appeal to the human condition.
This page, bottom grid — top- right: Untitled (1982) by KP Krishnakum­ar Ink drawings loaded with immediacy and theatrical­ity; desire and despair. The language was universal, perfectly legible everywhere, in its appeal to the human condition.
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page, top- left: Kusum (1996) by Mrinalini Mukherjee
She wrestles with the tough fibers of hemp rope. Erotic sculptures emerge, also drawings and etchings; nature is her source.
This page, top- left: Kusum (1996) by Mrinalini Mukherjee She wrestles with the tough fibers of hemp rope. Erotic sculptures emerge, also drawings and etchings; nature is her source.
 ??  ?? This page, top: Youtoocant­ouchthemoo­n— Yashodawit­hKrishna by Tejal Shah from the Hijra Fantasy Series (2006)
This page, top: Youtoocant­ouchthemoo­n— Yashodawit­hKrishna by Tejal Shah from the Hijra Fantasy Series (2006)
 ??  ?? This page, left:
From the C-Stunners series (2014) by Cyrus Kabiru And rebels reinvent themselves as cunning sentinels and mediums.
This page, left: From the C-Stunners series (2014) by Cyrus Kabiru And rebels reinvent themselves as cunning sentinels and mediums.
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: Aryakrishn­an, a performanc­e at SweetMaria­Monument
This page, bottom: Aryakrishn­an, a performanc­e at SweetMaria­Monument
 ??  ??
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page, top: DusMotinKa­niya (2018) by Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam Meanwhile, in the village, it is teeming with birdsongs and stories. On the wall, images fly around 360 degrees!
This page, top: DusMotinKa­niya (2018) by Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam Meanwhile, in the village, it is teeming with birdsongs and stories. On the wall, images fly around 360 degrees!
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: Oorali performing from their tour bus, Oorali Express.
This page, bottom: Oorali performing from their tour bus, Oorali Express.
 ??  ?? This page, centre: Sahodarar Community Kitchen and Table, a project by Vipin Dharnurdha­ran.
This page, centre: Sahodarar Community Kitchen and Table, a project by Vipin Dharnurdha­ran.
 ??  ?? This page, top: Anumitra Ghosh of Edible Archives prepares rice bowls for lunch service. Rare varieties of rice from remote areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal and Kerala, created a simple fine cuisine curated by four women chefs thinking about the politics of food.
This page, top: Anumitra Ghosh of Edible Archives prepares rice bowls for lunch service. Rare varieties of rice from remote areas of Bihar, Jharkhand, Bengal and Kerala, created a simple fine cuisine curated by four women chefs thinking about the politics of food.
 ??  ?? This page, top: Pangrok Sulap unveil their woodcut for the Biennale. Artists, musicians, activists: a collective in a remote region in Sabah, Malaysia. Singing and dancing, they print their woodcuts.
This page, top: Pangrok Sulap unveil their woodcut for the Biennale. Artists, musicians, activists: a collective in a remote region in Sabah, Malaysia. Singing and dancing, they print their woodcuts.
 ??  ?? This page, botom:
Aqui Thami conducts a workshop at the Sister Library at Pepper House. In the library, sisters gather in a pink corner to read each other’s books.
This page, botom: Aqui Thami conducts a workshop at the Sister Library at Pepper House. In the library, sisters gather in a pink corner to read each other’s books.
 ??  ?? This page, top: An installati­on view of photograph­s by Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh, from the Dissentand­Desire series The intimacy of queerness and friendship: shared stories of lives at the margins of the heteronorm­ative.
This page, top: An installati­on view of photograph­s by Sunil Gupta and Charan Singh, from the Dissentand­Desire series The intimacy of queerness and friendship: shared stories of lives at the margins of the heteronorm­ative.
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: YouMadeMeA­Communist (2018) by Goshka Macuga Marx sat on a pedestal. A tableau unfolded with rebellious women enacting their parts. On the floor, we could read books to understand a history that has sidelined the voices of women.
This page, bottom: YouMadeMeA­Communist (2018) by Goshka Macuga Marx sat on a pedestal. A tableau unfolded with rebellious women enacting their parts. On the floor, we could read books to understand a history that has sidelined the voices of women.
 ??  ??
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: Metropolis (1991-2017) by Lubna Chowdhary A metropolis — its pop future — plotted on a table. A thousand miniature sculptures stand to attention in full regalia like candy buildings!
This page, bottom: Metropolis (1991-2017) by Lubna Chowdhary A metropolis — its pop future — plotted on a table. A thousand miniature sculptures stand to attention in full regalia like candy buildings!
 ??  ?? This page, top: Sultana’sReality (2018) by Afrah Shafiq
The remix culture of Sultana’s alternate reality! History, memory, folklore and fantasy, woven together in a multimedia install.
This page, top: Sultana’sReality (2018) by Afrah Shafiq The remix culture of Sultana’s alternate reality! History, memory, folklore and fantasy, woven together in a multimedia install.
 ??  ?? This page, bottom: OHorizon (2018) by the Otolith Group Tagore’s dream of holistic education — a haunting parable.
This page, bottom: OHorizon (2018) by the Otolith Group Tagore’s dream of holistic education — a haunting parable.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India