Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty brings Kochi-Muziris Biennale to life

Gunjan Gupta and 97 international artists descend on the Keralan fort

Inverso Mundus by AES+F
Inverso Mundus by AES+F

From Monday December 12 to Wednesday March 29, the seafront at Fort Kochi in Kerala, India will be dusted down and spruced up in order to host the Kochi-Muziris art biennale, now in its third edition, which fills restored Dutch bungalows, colonial warehouses and verdant gardens with works from 97 international artists. This year, the biennale is curated by contemporary Indian artist Sudarshan Shetty, known for large-scale installations, and whose aim here is to “draw in practitioners whose works are seemingly outside the expectation of contemporary art”.

Bartan Wala Bicycle throne by Gunjan Gupta
Bartan Wala Bicycle throne by Gunjan Gupta

To this end, poets, musicians, dancers and performance artists will appear alongside installations, sculptures and pavilions, and infuse the streets and ancient fort with a seductive, creative buzz.    

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The main venue is Aspinwall House, a crumbling colonial warehouse on the seafront. Highlights on show include photographs of dead bodies that have been dressed in couture and heavily styled by Russian collective AES+F, and a film installation by Turkish artist Ahmet Oğüt. Nearby, at the Kashi Art Café, Scottish-born Charles Avery presents new additions to The People and Things of Onomatopoeia, the fictional city he has been creating for more than 10 years.

Kochi is hosting its third edition of the art biennale
Kochi is hosting its third edition of the art biennale

A further 20 collateral events are dotted around Kochi, among them Kissa Kursi Ka, a show of “thrones” (from £10,000)on display at Heritage Arts. Their creator, Delhi-based designer Gunjan Gupta, appropriates objects historically used as seats before the upright chair is thought to have come to India in the 15th century and turns them into limited-edition collectables. Among the 10 works on show is her Bori sofa, made from jute sacks stuffed with foam potatoes and new versions of her Bicycle thrones, first created in 2008. Gupta is a tour de force among a new generation of Indian designers, and her presence in Kochi blazes a trail for future biennale design and art crossovers.

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