Madanmohan Rao ( )
Launched in 2014, PhotoSparks is a weekly feature from YourStory, with photographs that celebrate the spirit of creativity and innovation. In the earlier 680 posts, we featured an art festival, cartoon gallery, world music festival, telecom expo, millets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.
Curated by Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao, the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale features a wide range of artworks and installations at multiple venues in the scenic Fort Kochi and Ernakulam areas in Kerala.
Titled In Our Veins Flow Ink and Fire, the Biennale spans over 15 venues, some of which are showcased in this photo essay. They include Pepper House, Dutch Warehouse, Mocha Art Cafe, and David Hall, as well as the Student Biennale.
Originally scheduled for launch in December 2020, the Biennale was postponed due to the pandemic. The ups and downs of the tumultuous crisis are captured in some of the thematic sections and artworks at the festival.
“This edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale embodies the joy of experiencing practices of divergent sensibilities, under conditions both joyful and grim. There is optimism even in the darkest absurdity, and this is what leavens the direness of our time,” curator Shubigi Rao explains.
Her own artworks have been exhibited in Singapore and overseas. Her interests include archaeology, ecologies, natural history, neuroscience, archival systems, history, and literature, as well as interpretations of conflict, biases and violence.
At the Biennale, Jim Lambie’s immersive installation Zobop is made of concentric lines of polychromatic vinyl. They reinterpret the architectural layout of the 18th-century Dutch warehouse for spices.
The artist explains that his work is influenced by jazz and even psychedelic pop. This installation is supported by the Mazumdar-Shaw Philanthropy and is dedicated to the memory of the late John Shaw.
The David Hall venue features a haunting exhibition directed by Sangeeta Thapa, called Memories of Home. Seven artists present a shared narrative of the plight of South Asian people on the move due to economic and political reasons.
Nine artists from Goa’s HH Art Spaces present artworks examining connections between humans and objects in daily life. Myanmar artist Min Ma Maing, now based in the US, exhibits photographic works depicting the grim overlay of military rule on the lives of citizens yearning for democracy and rights.
An outstanding section titled Spectres and the Sea reflects the world of international trading routes. Fragments of ceramic objects as well as whole jars and other artefacts represent the convergence of economy and culture through the mists of time.
The warehouses, now converted into art galleries for the Biennale, are located right on the waterfront. Stunning views of nature outside coincide with artistic depictions inside of the role of waterways in history and migration.
The Nepal Picture Library, an independent archive of cultural documentation from Nepal, showcases a range of pictures from its collection of over 120,000 photographs. They depict the women’s rights movement in Nepal, spanning demonstrations, mass assemblies, and teach-ins.
Mocha Art Café features a thought-provoking exhibition titled Anatomy of a Vegetable: Ruminations on Fragile Ecosystems by Prasanta Sahu. The moulds and models of vegetables and grains make us reflect on the world of nature, agricultural produce, and the toil of farmers, that sustain us but are under severe pressure.
“The intersections of people and incidents, flashpoints of censorship and sites, all point to the crucial importance of the political, cultural, literary, scientific and philosophical climate necessary for ideas to thrive and flourish,” curator Shubigi Rao suggests.
Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?
(All photographs were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the Biennale.)