François Mazabraud explains his deceptively real views of the Kochi skyline
I FIRST came to Kochi last September, to shoot videos of the landscape in different places, where telescopes could be situated. It was a really interesting site visit, as there were no tourists, and it was so quiet. At the beginning, I chose four different points of view — two in Aspinwall House, one on the seafront, and one in Pepper House.
Pepper House was a great location, but the problem was that it was too close to the sea. For my project, the telescope needed to be located in a place with a panoramic view, because in this way, I can play with the sense of blurred distances. When there is a certain distance between objects placed near and far, viewers can’t determine what is true or wrong. If you are really far from the object, you can’t be really sure of what you see inside the telescope, and you have to verify what you see outside (the defined field of vision).
The balcony at Aspinwall House was ideal, because its height was enough to create this kind of experience, where the right and the wrong are continuously blending. Then I chose to put a telescope on the beach, as I wanted at least one of them to be outside the Biennale, where it can be accessible to everyone, both foreigners and the local people. This was my “public” art piece for the Biennale. I chose the place also because there is a clear skyline, where at times, there is nothing between the sky and the sea.
The sky is one limit
Hidden Skylines is composed of different telescopes situated in different places in Kochi. Inside each telescope, a screen is hidden showing the same landscape that you can see just in front of the telescope. Everything looks real when you look inside this landscape.
And by moving the head of the telescope, you travel inside the image of the landscape, which is a really big image... but in fact, some details are fake. There are graphic effects inserted inside the landscape, and you can’t notice them directly, because they are realistic. The spectator has to discover the trick by himself.
I have thus tried to create a new form of exhibiting artwork, I wanted to create a public device that looks real, like public furniture. The telescopes were designed in Mumbai by (designers) Aziz Kachwala and Radhika Bidasaria. For the animation and graphic effects inside the screen, I worked with the designer Amel El Kamel, and a developer to create the interactive software.
Art as spectator sport
Kochi is a really touristy place. A lot of foreigners visit nowadays. It makes me think — first, they came to colonise the country, and now they are here as tourists, to spend holidays in exotic and quiet places, and to see this monument of colonisation. My project happened at this point.
The Kochi Biennale presents a really good opportunity to show that India has a larger role to play in the international contemporary art field. But the question is always the same, how do we receive contemporary art in a world where everything is seen as culture? How is art different then, from advertising?
Unfortunately, I see a lot of audiences and spectators at art exhibitions behaving like tourists — they’re looking to have a good time with their family or friends, but they don’t have so much time to look really deep inside the artwork — because they have to take the tours, and it is difficult to see everything and focus on the direct piece of work. So they look at art with a mobile phone, and there is no spirituality in the art event any more.
In my practice, I always look to create an alternative way of looking, which could be inwards or outwards. I like the idea of hidden insertions of fiction inside reality – in terms of the space of exhibit, and the content. The telescopes represent reality, where they might offer a simulated view for people to look at, as though the view were a work of art. In this way, this can work like a trap, and viewers slowly understand the possibility that what they are looking at inside the telescope is not reality, and perhaps in that weird instant, they might reconsider for themselves what a spectator should be.
François Mazabraud’s telescopes, as a part of Hidden Skylines, can be viewed until March 29.