'For art to make a larger impact, it should emerge from a position of empathy': Chandan Gomes
I feel that there are multiple roles that artists and their works can play at a platform like the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. However, in these troubled times that we live in, the most important role of art would be to build a shared imagination. An imagination that can counter the narrative of hate by evoking empathy.
Anita Dube’s curatorial note is anything but safe. I find her position imaginative and courageous; there is a complexity to it. I was very keen to see how her vision is realised in the Biennale.
This amalgamation of various art forms is something I have always been excited about! Nothing exists in isolation — as a photographer, I have often reached out to cinema, literature and painting to inform my practice. I believe that every platform has a role to play in the dissemination of art — galleries too play an important role. They are often the ones to spot fresh talent first.
My practice has been nurtured by my gallery PHOTOINK, where I’ve always been encouraged to ask questions, explore and make work for the love of it. Having said that, we need more platforms like the Biennale, which can reach to a much larger audience. The Biennale is also a platform for artists who do not find gallery representation for varied reasons, but deserve an audience.
Lastly, the Biennale is also a space for indigenous artists to find representation. They need to be seen and heard. The discourse on art needs diversity and should not be controlled merely by a privileged few. There should be space for everyone.
I arrived in Kochi three days before the opening of the festival. I wanted to prepare for the installation of my exhibition. Those two days of work were intense, and full of challenges, but I thoroughly enjoyed them. During that time, I met many artists who were present at the venue of Aspinwall House, all installing their works.
Once the festival opened, I spent the first two days largely in my space interacting with the visitors. The next 4-5 days, I diligently visited all the venues and spent time at each exhibition. My time in Kochi was memorable, with some of the finest conversations I have had in my life.
The work I am exhibiting in Kochi emerges from the hand made books I’ve been making over the past six years. This exhibition is dear to me because it comes closest to represent my practice — as a photographer, I do not work on a single project; I photograph or document anything and everything that interests me or evokes questions that I would like to engage with.
The only expectation I had was from myself, where I wanted to make an exhibition that is intimate, raw and representative of my practice. Now that the festival has opened, my exhibition belongs as much to the viewer as it does to me. They can love it, like it, hate it or be completely indifferent to it. I will accept whatever I will receive from their end.
I believe for any work of art to make a larger impact, it should emerge from a position of empathy. It should build a dialogue between the self and the larger world we live in. Evoke questions, conversations beyond the specifics that might define it.
I do not think that the current generation is disinterested in art; in Kochi, I observed that a large part of the audience comprised of young men and women. Sometimes, it is difficult to articulate in words what you felt or thought of a work of art. Forming an opinion for the sake of articulation should not be a must. Sometimes silence can be an answer...
Chandan’s works are on display at Aspinwall House until March 2019.