Twelve venues. 108 days. 97 artists. 31 countries. And more than half a million visitors expected. That’s the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 for you. Bose Krishnamachari, president of Kochi Biennale Foundation and one of the founders of this global event, is beaming as he says, “From the first and second edition, we gathered that it is important the city needs to be engaged with the project. We need to educate the people about what a biennale is, what is involved, what are the art processes, and what can be their involvement.” ... The third edition is huge, it’s ambitious. Sudarshan Shetty, the curator, who was unanimously selected by a ten-member council, has produced large projects at multiple venues. The curatorial difference can be found in the fact that the curator has consciously left open and empty spaces on the property. It is meant for site-specific performances. “We want people to visit us more than once, and be part of such performances. There are dances, theatre pieces, traditional music, mime, and much more,” adds Bose. A major shift is that with this biennale is the curator wants the public to excavate, to find, to engage in the process. “If you give them a signposting, they won’t be curious. Let them find their own stories. It should be unique,” he says.
The main pavilion has been moved to another location, this time. “Sudarshan was very particular that he didn’t want people located at only one venue. Even the one at Kottapuram has many activities and performances daily, so there will be a lot of human movement among the 12 venues,” adds Bose. The overall look of the biennale has also changed — it was designed by one of the KBF trustees, V Sunil. “The third biennale has an improved look and feel. We have upgraded the technology used, the practices being followed. The Tata-supported Video Lab is an example,” affirms Riyas Komu, secretary of Kochi Biennale Foundation and one of the founder members of the event. Even the food stalls, seating areas and restrooms are designed very aesthetically and is more hygienic. There has been conscious effort that has gone into it. ... Riyas explains how the biennale has involved and included the common people of Kerala. “There is a very exciting, multiple layering of diverse projects, a biennale which is an ongoing cultural acupuncture in Kochi. The biennale is a rejuvenator. The curator has succeeded in spurring discourse from the city and around,” he says. “We have managed to break the perception of what art is or even what a biennale should be like. There are lots of performances, film screenings, artist talks, mural works, designing, and more for this year’s visitors.”
An interesting feature of this time’s biennale is the ongoing painting and drawing artworks: every day, a few artists such as C Bhagyanath, Sadanandan and Daniele Galliano will paint and draw over the previous day’s work, adding layers, one day at a time. So each day, the painting or sketch would look different.