An artist's overview with graphic artist and designer Orijit Sen
A personal take on the ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale
The best thing about the Kochi Muziris Biennale is the way that the people of Kochi and Kerala have adopted it as their own. It is perhaps unique in the world of biennales and art shows for the sheer numbers and kinds of people that visit it, bring their families to, and engage with in so many ways.
So much so that the organisers, quite justifiably, call it the ‘people’s biennale’. I am privileged to be a participating artist in the ongoing 2016/17 edition. Artists from dozens of countries across the globe are showing powerful, challenging works across a variety of media—from traditional temple style murals from Kerala to multi-channel audio visuals from Latvia.
Interestingly, a local acquaintance from Kochi said to me that ‘binnaley’ is a new term that has now entered the Malayalam lexicon—and it refers to an experience that has not been experienced previously! Thousands of people are lining up to immerse themselves in this experiential feast for the senses.
Among my favourite works at this biennale are Chilean poet Raul Zurita’s The Sea of Pain, which brings us a powerful combination of text, scale and and tactile experience, as we wade through calf-deep water inside a vast warehouse to confront the words of a poem about Syrian children. AES+F, a Russian collective, is showing a provocative, disturbing yet visually lush projection-based installation.
Elsewhere, Gauri Gill’s larger-than-life photographs of shrines and memorials in the desert held me spellbound for the profound sense of silence that the abstract shapes of the stones and objects seemed to emanate. There are many important works here, though all the artists are not necessarily the best known or biggest names.
Curator Sudarshan Shetty’s strength of vision comes through in the way he has sought to bring many threads together, creating for the visitor an experience that moves between the playful, the thought provoking to the awe-inspiring. In his words, “My curatorial approach started as a conversation between different forms and approaches to art practice. I see the biennale as existing in process, something which flows, and I wanted to engage artists whose practices will create works that exist not only for the duration of the biennale, but into the time beyond.”
Having been to the previous edition as a visitor, I was most excited about the public nature of the biennale, and have worked on a project that invites people to enter and engage with artworks not just through viewing, but also through touch and play. Called Go Playces, my project explores ideas of place and identity in the modern world. There are a series of puzzles, quizzes and tagging games that offer communal play as way of interacting with art. I’m pleased that at the biennale, it’s working even better than I had hoped for. It’s hugely gratifying for me, as an artist, to see perfect strangers forming spontaneous collaborative teams to solve a puzzle, and then cheering and high-fiving each other when they do!
Orijit Sen’s interactive work Go Playces is on display at Aspinwall House until March 29.