In May 2010 two contemporary artists based out of Mumbai and 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. At that point, there was a dearth of an international platform for contemporary art in India. Bose and Riyas proposed the idea of a Biennale, a large-scale international exhibition, in Kochi drawing inspiration from the Venice Biennale. The Kochi-Muziris Bienella was thus born and its the only biennale held in India. Its attendance and funding increased with each edition, and as we approach its fifth edition this winter, it has become the largest art exhibition in India.
The exhibition is set in spaces across Kochi, Muziris, and the surrounding islands. The shows are held in existing galleries, halls, and site-specific installations are put up in public spaces, heritage buildings, and disused warehouse structures. The first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale began on 12/12/12. Held every couple of years, Indian and international artists are invited to exhibit artworks across a variety of mediums including film, installation, painting, sculpture, new media, and performance art. While celebrating contemporary art from around the world, The Kochi-Muziris Biennale seeks to invoke the historic cosmopolitan legacy of the modern metropolis of Kochi, and its legendary predecessor, the ancient port of Muziris. Along with the exhibition, the Biennale offers a rich program of talks, seminars, screenings, music performances, workshops, and educational activities for school children and visitors of all ages. Working alongside the Muziris Heritage Project, The Kochi–Muziris Biennale seeks to bridge the gap between the past and the modernity of the present.
The fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is scheduled to open on December 12, 2022, and will continue till April 10, 2023. Curated by Singaporean artist Shubigi Rao and titled In Our Veins Flow Ink and Fire, the exhibition will bring together 80 artists and collectives with over 45 new commissions. Although originally scheduled for December 2020, it had to be postponed due to the pandemic. The artists include Biju Ibrahim (Kerala), Johannes Heldén (Stockholm), Richard Bell (Brisbane)Amol K Patil (Mumbai), and several more. The event will be held across multiple venues in Fort Kochi and Ernakulam, in Kerala.
In her curatorial framework, Shubhigi Rao speaks in the context of the pandemic and the biennale, “A biennale can be so much more than a mere accumulation of coincidental collisions. As a bulwark against despair, the biennale as commons may seem an impossible idea. But 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 humor. 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 humor”.
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