Works that caught my eye at the Kochi Biennale

I had the opportunity of a very rushed visit to the Kochi Biennale a couple of months ago- I even made a post out it here.

However, I kept thinking that I had to get back to Kochi to catch the Biennale before it ended and so there I was this weekend to have a more leisurely look at the art that was on display and also to catch some of the sights of Kochi. We (my mum & I) had to agree that the Biennale was great- if the purpose of art is to provoke thought, then the works on display at Kochi can provoke quite the revolution. And I love the fact that they have made this art very accessible to almost everyone. It only costs Rs 100/- to get a ticket that gets you to all the venues and if you can read English or Malayalam then you can understand who the artists are and what they are trying to express through their works. It seriously doesn’t get better than this- if you haven’t been to Kochi yet to see the Biennale- book your flights now. If you are in Kochi and you haven’t yet seen the Biennale you have absolutely no excuse. There is still more than a month before the Biennale closes, so make your plans now!

It is hard to pick favourites out of all the art that is out on display- what appeals to me at one moment of time may not quite work the next. However, I would have to talk to about three projects that were just absolutely spectacular. So here goes

1. Mark Formanek, Standard Time

Mark Formanek- Standard Time
Mark Formanek- Standard Time

You could just walk by the projection on the screen saying- “oh another one of those video art installations blah!”. You definitely could, until you pause to read the panel about the artist on the way out and then you step back in and say “Hmm! interesting” and then before you know it- you are hooked!

Standard Time is a masterpiece by Mark Formanek-who works out of Berlin. It is a 24 hour video where a crew of 70 workers are putting together plans of wood that resemble- well – a digital clock. Every minute workers come in to change the order of the planks thereby changing the time exactly as in a digital clock. The catch? Well the workers have to make the changes in a minute and sooner or later you begin holding your breath wondering if the workers are going to make the needed changes in time. Apparently this video was shot over a 24 hour period, and a total of 1611 changes were needed to make this clock work. And when synced with your local time, this video becomes a digital clock. Check the video if my explanation doesn’t make sense.

Standard Time goes further than just being a very fancy digital clock. It also makes a statement about people- about labour. The workers in the video are working really hard and yet what they are doing can be summed up as almost pointless. Can we think of some of us who are caught within the same scenario? Ok more than some? Art has gone beyond being more than something just truly representative of something- art has to make you think, to infer. And Formanek’s video makes you wonder about this mad world and it’s rat-race.

Art (even if it is art commenting on the nature of this labour driven capitalist world) however, also has to make money :)- so you can purchase your version of a clock video on the official website

The website also has photographs, videos, commentaries and much more if you are interested.

2. Anish Kapoor, Descension

Everybody knows Anish Kapoor right? Well almost everyone. (Bean in Chicago- ring a bell?) Anish Kapoor builds large and shiny. He works with hard substances that yet give an impression of fluidity and illusionary space. His work, Descension, is one of the site specific works crafted exclusively for the Biennale. And it was a fitting masterstroke to the “Whorled Explorations” them of the second edition of the KMB. For if a whirlpool won’t whorl what will? That’s right, Anish Kapoor managed to construct an entire thundering, swirling and imposing whirlpool right in the middle of a room in Aspinwall Hall. It sucks in water from the sea through the day and the guard oblivious to it all sits and reads the newspaper outside the door 🙂

Anish Kapoor Descension
Anish Kapoor Descension

Looking down into the whirlpool is almost like looking into yourself.

3. Guido Van der Werve, Nummer Acht Everything is going to be alright

Or is it?

The artist walks on frozen land where normally would see nothing for miles. Except in this case there is a massive ice breaking ship not 10 feet behind the artist slowly following him breaking the ice. This video is impressive on a number of levels. Just visually it is impressive- the man dwarfed by the ship in a hostile environment- the contrast, the noise- you could watch this video for just that.

However it doesn’t take you a big leap of imagination to think of all kinds of other things. So what if you thought of the ship as the beast that mankind has unleashed- science, technology, development- you name it. It pretends to walk behind you as your pet beast, and yet slowly breaking up the ground you walk on making sure you can never get back. It could also kill you if you take just one false step. Dangerous? Maybe we have to rethink how we live.

Well that was great wasn’t it?

I certainly had loads of fun. I could write a lot more about other artworks that were there (and probably will another day) but I hope this gives you a taste of what is out there for you.

The KMB is spread over a number of buildings in the Fort Kochi area (and one in Ernakulam). The buildings open at 10 in the morning (nobody tells you that!) and there is also a complementary buggy shuttle that can take you around the different ones- except to the one in Ernakulam which is the one destination you really need a shuttle to- but I really won’t blame the organisers for that. They have already done a massively enormous job.


12 Comments Add yours

  1. neihtn2012 says:

    So interesting! I wish I could have seen these myself.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks Hien! Yes the art work was really interesting and inspiring. I’m glad I had the opportunity to go back again. it’s not often we see such a massive collection of art in one city. Kochi is also a very nice city. Have you ever been to Kerala in India?

  2. Hello Sukanya,

    Thanks a lot for stopping by, that helped me finding your place in blogospere 🙂

    So nice to see that you had a great time appreciating art in it’s different forms at Biennale …

    Have a great time 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thanks for visiting my blog Sreejith! Keep visiting would love you hear your feedback!

      1. Sure Sukanya, I could find some really interesting posts…

        I will be following your adventures 🙂

  3. Nirmala says:

    I am so glad I got to see Biennale at Kochi. Wonderful experience!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Excellent- we’ll go for the 2016 edition as well 😉

  4. Maria says:

    You’ve taken some awesome pictures of the pieces there! 🙂 Great to hear from someone else who’s been there!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you Maria! The Biennale is great isn’t it? When were you there?

      1. Maria says:

        Er… round 7th January or something? Whatever the post is dated…. traveling round India and so much has happened since….

      2. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

        I can imagine- happy travels!

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