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Art, design, nature: how the 5th edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale dazzles and inspires audiences

In this photo essay series, we feature outstanding artworks from this four-month art extravaganza in Kerala, along with curator insights. Read, enjoy, share!

Art, design, nature: how the 5th edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale dazzles and inspires audiences

Sunday March 12, 2023 , 4 min Read

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 festivaltelecom expomillets fair, climate change expo, wildlife conference, startup festival, Diwali rangoli, and jazz festival.

A spectacular treat for art lovers and artists is on display at the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB). The four-month festival will run till April 10 at multiple venues in the scenic Fort Kochi and Ernakulam areas in Kerala.

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See our earlier six-part photo essay series on the fourth edition of the Biennale here, as well as coverage of the Bangkok Biennale (Thailand) and Aichi Triennale (Japan).

The current edition of KMB is curated by Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao, and titled In Our Veins Flow Ink and Fire. It features around 80 artists from over a dozen countries, and is spread across 15 large venues. The festival was originally scheduled for launch in December 2020, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

In this 10-part photo essay series, we feature the artworks at Aspinwall House, Pepper House, Dutch Warehouse, Anand Warehouse, VXL Warehouse, Mocha Art Cafe, KVN Arcade, Trivandrum Warehouse, Kashi Town House, and David Hall.

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Founded in 2011, Kochi-Muziris Biennale is regarded as India’s first biennale, and India’s largest and longest-duration art festival. It aims to showcase Indian and international artists, curators, and cultural practitioners.

“We remember the ability of our species, our communities, to flourish artistically even in fraught and dire situations, with a refusal in the face of disillusionment to disavow our poetry, our languages, our art and music, our optimism and humour,” curator Shubigi Rao explains.

“To envision this biennale as a persistent yet unpredictable murmuration in the face of capriciousness and volatility comes from my unshakeable conviction in the power of storytelling as strategy, of the transgressive potency of ink, and transformative fire of satire and humour,” she adds.

Shubigi Rao

Shubigi Rao

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The exhibits fit into the themes of joy and triumph in the face of darkness and plight. Artists featured in this photo essay include Ukrainian artist Zhanna Kadyrova (river stones sliced like bread), Devi Seetharaman (symbolism of the mundu), French-Colombian artist Marcos Avila-Ferero (movements of industrial workers), and Tenzing Dakpa (hotel life).

An outstanding exhibit has been showcased by Anna Samat, who lives and works in Kuala Lumpur and New York. The featured six-metre-wide deity in a quiet dark chamber is actually constructed from cutlery, plastic swords, toy soldiers, washers, colanders, rakes, and belts.

The installation is inspired by her childhood memories of games, Diwali rangoli, and Malay weaves. Spread in four connected clusters on the floor and hung as broad wall drapes, the artwork truly mesmerises and delights viewers, inviting them to sit and meditate away from the hot and humid weather outside.

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Other featured creative works are by Martinique artist Jean-Francois Bocle (the role of the banana in colonial history), Homay Vyarawala (early photojournalist work on women students), Comoros artist Nathalie Muchamad (sylised trade designs), Nigeria’s Zina Saro-Wiwa (antelope-inspired masks), and Anju Acharya (evolution of bodily transformations).

South African artist Gabrielle Goliath presented a stark installation on the horrors of violence and trauma, with the names of 735 individual victims printed on the wall.

“Perhaps all that is required for an impossible ideal to exist is for enough people to live, think, and work as if it already does,” curator Shubigi Rao suggests.

Now, what have you done today to pause in your busy schedule and find new avenues to apply your creativity?

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(All photographs were taken by Madanmohan Rao on location at the galleries.)

See also the YourStory pocketbook ‘Proverbs and Quotes for Entrepreneurs: A World of Inspiration for Startups,’ accessible as apps for Apple and Android devices.