Does art speak?

The 108-day-long Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016  had concluded on March 29, 2017. For months, tourists, art lovers and even amateur artists would flood the streets of Ernakulam district’s most popular destination – Fort Kochi. While I do appreciate the way in which this event had livened up a few sections of the area, this edition of the art fiesta had raised many questions.

Curious, my friends and I decided to explore the Biennale earlier in February 2017. We figured that a bicycle ride to the venues of the exhibits would save us time and would add to the fun. So, we decided to rent two bicycles and began exploring the area. My friends weren’t as inclined to art as I was. Hence, it was my duty to explain the nuances of different sculptures, paintings, photographs and even still models.

As we entered the premises of one such space, I noticed my friends looking rather lost and confused while I continued to dwell on the fine work of art, depicting women in various roles, placed on the walls. We then proceeded to a room that showcased a brass hand. This display, however, had no relevant information regarding the work being presented. Soon after, we had entered the room of photography. At first, I was dumbstruck to see oil paintings as realistic as reality the could be. But in no time, I was convinced that those paintings were indeed photographs that were modified using computer generated tools.

This had paved way for a rather unexpected art experience. Indeed, it was my third visit to the exhibition. Yet, I sensed no excitement or enthusiasm to learn more. A few displays, however, seemed to have left an impression on me. Those included the fancy bulbs that revealed the year of birth of its creator, the large wall-painting which, to my friends, resembled a mural and a pyramid that was truly a maze. The wall-painting was unique for the colors that were used were made of natural ingredients.

Upon, concluding our tour of the Biennale, my friend had asked me one pertinent question – “What is the purpose behind an art display of such a large scale?” Despite explaining to her about the exposure offered to artists during those 108 days, I was puzzled about the intentions of the most discussed art event as well. Great minds from various walks of life, including renowned dancer Mallika Sarabhai and Carnatic vocalist T.M Krishna, had visited the exhibitions. But, I honestly felt that the fiesta failed to instill a love or certain regard for art and the artists. Attempts were made at highlighting other aspects of India culture such as a Nangiarkoothu (one of Kerala’s most ancient forms of classical dance drama) performance.

Attempts were made at highlighting other aspects of India culture such as a Nangiarkoothu (one of Kerala’s most ancient forms of classical dance drama) performance.

We also didn’t see any genuine interest or love for the subject by the organizers and the volunteers. It was rare to see how nobody gathered the courage to explain the displays around them. Most often, the visitors were directed to the description on the walls which, in many cases, did not provide information regarding the time taken to complete the display, the year of creation and even the materials used.

Personally, I was disappointed. Having visited art galleries and exhibitions in other parts of the country and abroad, I felt that the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016  should strive towards instigating some passion towards art and culture among the local crowd and not only cater to the backpacking tourists. After all, until the foreign traders entered our coasts, the Konark Sun Temple stood tall due to the presence of a magnet. Ingenious? Or isn’t that art?