Martin Walde writes in about creating art in Fort Kochi

Setting the world alight.

author_img   |   Published :   |  20th March 2017 04:52 PM

THE INVITATION to participate in the 3rd Kochi-Muziris Biennale came as a surprise to me. I had never visited any Indian region either as a tourist or as an artist.

When I come to a completely unknown place for so short a time, I know from experience, I have two possibilities: either to concentrate on the construction of the work or to experience the country. Both is a little much required. 

One of them then goes wrong first. Five days until the opening (of a festival) is a short period of time, if one must be astonished, but wants to work or vice versa. At first, I concentrated completely on the work, but I was able to do little. 

Then, the life and the situation in Fort Kochi began to take me more and more, and suddenly everything went smoothly, and the construction developed effortlessly.

This, I could only experience, since the venue of Aspinwall House is very precisely selected. Artists from all parts of the world were invited to come to Kerala and install their works with the help of the exhibition teams. 

Many, like myself, have never visited India, so everything is new, and you need time. Fort Kochi is accessible and almost everything the artists need is to be reached with a rickshaw, or on foot quickly.

There are enough accommodations within reach and the atmosphere of the surrounding area and the harbour, I felt, was reassuring. 

The residents are looking forward to the event, and the many visitors at the opening ceremony have confirmed my feeling that the Biennale is welcomed. 

Hot off the pressure
What particularly inspired me was the ease with which the team of the Biennale steadily concentrated and developed the whole area into a total work of art. In my experience, especially in large group shows, the pressure to complete all the work in the last few days becomes immeasurable.

The air flickers, all the participants are nervous and stressed curators regularly inquire about the state of things. “When the guests come, the food must be on the table” — this seems to be the most important thing, and often, much of what art actually does is lost in this stressful atmosphere. 

At the Biennale, I experienced something completely different. No one made unnecessary pressure, although the difficulties are as great as at every major event. The ease and generosity of the curator’s concept remained intact, and the result was unpretentious and without unnecessary pathos and intrusion. 

The liberating feeling of concentrating without perceptible pressure could be experienced in many processes. This occurs because everybody really wants it in a positive way, and it is not already predicted and challenged in the run-up by a surge of theoretical analyses.

Context is the new king
I have the suspicion that I conceive my work in a complex manner, as I like to make the construction in situ, and personally. This is the only way to learn about the communication potential of my own work, as well as of other artistic works and their development possibilities in the encounter with the people on the ground. 

The minor details get special importance. The memories of what was difficult and the experiences of how something comes about inspires me. I’m used to improvising, it’s a part of my way of working. Most of my works are rather flexible to interpret, and there is no authoritarian view: it must be exactly like this! But I would like to make the artworks expressive of their presence, their being here and now under the special circumstances; “experience-able”.

The surrounding context is the basis for this effect and the entirety of the work can achieve a special charisma.  I can say this of my own art at the biennale: I have never experienced it as differently and intensively as in this context.

Martin Walde’s installations are on display at Aspinwall House until March 29.