What is the purpose of travel? To escape from somewhere or to escape to something?
What is the purpose of art? To please the eyes of strangers, to express without explaining or to have a discourse around social and universal matters?
There cannot be a single purpose of travel and art, just like there cannot be a single answer to the above two questions.
When artists get together to reflect on humanitarian conflicts and reach a much wider audience through travel, provoke meaningful conversations regardless of culture, geography and ideology; that, for me is the cumulative highest purpose of them all!
‘Art is the distortion of an unendurable reality… Art is a correction, modification of a situation; art is communication, connection… Art is social, self-sufficient, and total.’- Jean Tinguely
‘Biennale’ is a term used for recurrent international contemporary art exhibitions that happen at a large scale. In May 2010, Mumbai based contemporary artists of Kerala origin, Bose Krishnamachari and Riyaz Komu were approached by the then culture minister of Kerala, M.A Baby to start an international art project in the state. Acknowledging the lack of an international platform for contemporary art in India, Bose and Riyas proposed the idea of a Biennale in Kochi. It is the largest art exhibition in India and the biggest contemporary art festival in Asia. This year it began on December 12, 2018, and will end on March 29, 2019.
The streets under a blue sky, yellow rays and green shades look vibrant not only with posters, graffiti, architecture and decor but also with colours of humanity. Students and travellers from all over the world gather in Kochi to sense the universal truth through art. While Fort Kochi looks pretty inside out, the realities whispered by the creations of these stunning artists can sometimes be heart-wrenching. Kerala, the most educated and progressive state invaded first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and eventually the British is already diverse and artistic with hues of the Jew Town, the Chinese Net, the backwaters, ancient explorations and a boastful history. If that was not enough, Biennale gives the city a soul that pulsates through narrow lanes and little doors opening to a world you cannot contain in your ignorant heart and minds. Keeping aside the modern statistics given to us by the not so mysterious internet, it takes a painful past and a courageous present to be open to art that is truthfully bold and unapologetically so.
Unfortunately, there are many problems in the world looking for an identity amidst the losing blues and greens and the increasing greys and reds. Yet the most devastating of them all is the humanitarian crisis in miserable regions like Syria, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Africa. Some of the most powerful countries responsible for the situation are unstirred and how! The photojournalists covering these stories must have a hard time sleeping at night, with images of suffering piercing through their consciousness. With multiple cafes, galleries, studios and open spaces playing venue host to the festival, the town becomes a walking museum with diverse art to break the monotony. Scores of artists displayed their art around communal violence, freedom of speech, gender issues, environmental concerns, the revival of ancient practises, material personifying incidents or simply turning into fashion wear. You can visit collateral venues and projects on a single ticket. Even the street walls ask questions and give answers at the same time. You can take coffee breaks, shopping breaks, beer breaks or sea breeze breaks in between to indulge in the art all over again.
Truth be told, it is disturbing to see a bigger number of ‘educated people’ supporting loud voices. Isn’t media and internet doing that out of proportion already? Art, on the other hand, speaks for the voiceless, the unknown, the unseen and the unheard. It makes an honest, beautiful attempt to maintain an equilibrium. Even the kings who fought historic wars kept in-house poets and intellectuals to give them a different perspective, we are mere mortals corrupt by the impurity of over communication, yet bound enough to variations of truth. (This stanza started and ended with ‘truth’ unconsciously and effortlessly, it must mean something! That’s how art is, it always means something, just never anything wrong.)
I am not writing much in this post so you have the time and patience to read the interpretations of thoughts behind the art. It is the artists’ truth I would like you to see instead of my version of their truth. I do not want thoughts to come out of my personal space, but out of a bigger sky with clouds of different shades, shapes and density.
‘Art, freedom and creativity will change society faster than politics.’- Victor Pinchuk
P.S.- More information on Kochi Biennale