Curated by Delhi-based artist Anita Dube, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018, the fourth edition of this Kerala art festival, will be based on the theme ‘possibilities for a non-alienated life’. Says Dube, “At the heart of my curatorial adventure lies a desire for liberation and comradeship … Where pleasure and pedagogy could sit together and share a drink, and where we could dance and sing and celebrate a dream together.” Held in the shadow of the Muziris Heritage Project, the Biennale is an interesting fusion of artistic pursuits and socio-cultural quests. The Biennale will be held between December 12, 2018 and March 29, 2019.
An art extravaganza with few parallels, the Biennale showcases young and veteran artists from across the globe who present their art projects through paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs, films, etc. Residency programs, workshops, seminars and talks, and film screenings are some of the related events that will lead into a world of immersive experience. Side by side, there will also be a Students’ Biennale where students from art colleges across South Asia will participate in exhibitions and field-based research on art education among other things. During the duration of the Biennale, there will be universal free entry every Monday, according to the website.
Journey through Muziris
Believed to be a legendary port on the Spice Route of Kerala, Muziris vanished about 3000 years ago. However, following excavations in and around Pattanam, a town about 25km from Kochi, the area has been identified as the likely site of the ancient port. The Biennale is a good time to explore the region now dotted with museums, places of religious and historical importance, cultural centres and markets. Start with the visitor centre at Paravur Synagogue for an insight into the Muziris Heritage Project and the places to see. There is also a fixed route Hop-On Hop-Off Boat Service (+91 9020864649, 9745964649) for visiting most of the places included under the Project in air-conditioned comfort. You may also time your visit to include the Muziris Paddle, a two day (January 5-6, 2019) expedition that commences from Muziris, sails along the National Waterway 3, and concludes at Kochi’s Marine Drive.
Insight into adaptive reuse
You can visit the festival for its venues alone. Each is a study in adaptive reuse of urban heritage that would have otherwise been lost to posterity. From the Maharajah of Cochin’s royal court building to an unnamed Town House in the middle of Fort Kochi, from a Dutch bungalow that served as a Jewish family residence to premises used by a 19th century English company to a renovated warehouse in a working dock, are some of the venues chosen to hold programmes for the Biennale. So while you enjoy the programmes, don’t miss the background of these properties. Apart from the Cabral Yard, which is the site for the Biennale Pavilion, some of the other venues that you must take a peek are the Aspinwall House, Anand Warehouse, David Hall, Durbar Hall, Pepper House, and Kashi Art Café. Outside the festival, some also serve as exhibition spaces, cafes, etc.
Guided art tour
Put aside your worries if you are wondering if the overwhelming atmosphere may be a tad confusing for you. With specially trained art mediators on hand to help visitors and take them on guided walking tours, the Biennale has ensured that everyone has an immersive experience. So whether you are a practising artist, an art enthusiast, or a traveller, get an overview of the exposition through these mostly free tours. You may also avail paid customised tours to suit your individual interests.
Exhibit your work
This year’s festival aims to move beyond the physical venues by including a web-integrated space that will allow anyone to publicly display their personal work or any online content, from music, to film, literature, to viral videos, according to the organisers. Participants will also be able to perform and speak on open microphones, as well as write and draw on installed chalkboards.