I’m sure most people do something unique to celebrate their anniversary. For me and my wife, both being such travel buffs its simple – exploring a unique beautiful place with an offbeat experience every year has become kind of ritual for us. For our anniversary trip two years ago my wife and me decided to explore a small costal town which we were curious about for a long time – Kochi (also known as Cochin).
What made the trip most memorable was something which didn’t plan for. We discovered one of the most remarkable Kochi experiences – the Kochi-Muziris Biennale – India’s largest contemporary art event and also India’s only Biennale. Before visiting Kochi, I’m surprised that I wasn’t even aware of it. As the name suggests the event happens every two years. If you’re planning to visit Kochi right now, you’re in luck. Coz the biennale is happening right now. It will be open until March.
Biennale is the ultimate destination for art enthusiasts. I later came to know that some of my friends travel to Kochi just for attending Biennale. The event doesn’t just happen in one place or time. It has a large collection of events and exhibitions at venues spread all over Kochi. Some open throughout while some showcased only at specific timings. So you have to plan a bit for the places you want to visit. The biggest exhibition being at Aspinwall House.
To be honest, I don’t have much understanding of art myself. Heck, I can’t even tell M F Hussain from the drawings of my 5 year old niece. But still I’d recommend this event for everyone. If you have even a layman’s eye for art and expression, I assure you that a trip to Kochi just for Biennale won’t disappoint you. It is quite something witnessing artists create stunning experiences not just with colours and canvasses but with music, lights, fabric, sculptures and many more obscure objects. It is enough to send oneself on a heavenly sensory trip, if you appreciates art even a little bit. Here you’d find every form of abstract and experimental art imaginable.
Each biennale, a curator is appointed who handpicks artworks to be showcased. The 2016 event showcased 97 works of artists from 31 countries!
The amount of thought that went into creating each artwork was unbelievable.
In one of the artworks artist Yardena Elhanan Kurulkar, an alumna of Sir J J School of Art, Mumbai, created a point of confrontation between life and death by mixing media with light bulbs. In Kurulkar’s vision, the bulbs mark the date the artist’s body came into being. It suggests the universality of death.
One of the most intricate painting which I saw was spread across the entire length of a wall in a large hall. I don’t remember how long I stood there trying to understand the hundreds of stories the pictures told and spot the minute details of the perfect masterpiece.
Fortunately for me, the artists were fast at work as I watched them in action. We had small chat as one of them explained what the painting meant to him. It was quite interesting to see their passion. The painting was titled 12 stories and it was created as a message of communal harmony via 12 ancient stories of Kerala.
An artist, Sunil Padval, had created a room full of tidbits representing the thoughts in his head – obscure paintings, sketches and photographs. He created it to show a snapshot of the thoughts and how an artists weaves together the random pieces to create something beautiful.
While some art installations were curious, some satirical and some were so powerfully silent. One such was Chilean poet Raul Zurita’s Sea of Pain. You remove your footwear and wade through a large empty hall with what feels like going through seawater. Raul had dedicated the installation to Galip Kurdi, the five-year-old brother of Alan Kurdi (who became an icon of the Syrian crisis after photographs of his lifeless body were shared around the world).
Another powerful artwork was the Pyramid of Exiled Poets.
The artist Aleš Šteger described the pyramid as a tomb for the poets who have been exiled from republics and nations for centuries. It was their ultimate residence. The pyramid was built with wood, matting, mud and dung. Walking inside the pyramid gave you the haunting peep into the artist’s mind.
While the cafes of Kochi are already famous for their artistic vibe, during this season they were all wearing a different charm with glimpses of the creations from the exhibitions in most of them. We chanced upon a few.
We visited as many venues as we could over the course of two days of our stay and we still longed to see more. But even apart from the fantastic Biennale, kochi was amazing and one of our best trips. Our stay, our stroll, our shopping, each deserves a detailed account. I’ll write more about our stay in Kochi in next blog posts. To get notified when my next blog gets published, you can follow this blog by entering your email id below. Till then, go ahead and plan your next Kochi trip.