I visited Kochi over the Republic Day weekend to see KG Subramanyan and work of other artists at the biennale. The muggy air weighing down on the collective shoulders of this communist land was inspiring. And so I walked on.

I decided to stay on Willingdon Island to avoid the crowd. The airport bus was winding through roads occupied by frantic construction of Kochi Metro towards Fort Kochi. I had to get off at a fairly desolate part of Willingdon. There were a few or no people on the road at nine in the morning. Apparently Willingdon Island (or Island as it is known locally) does not see much activity unless there is a ship scheduled to leave for Lakshadweep.

I stayed in one of the few luxury hotels on Island and walked everyday to the ferry point to catch my four rupees boat ride to Mattancherry. The Fort Kochi area was the venue for the Kochi Muziris Biennale with over 20 small locations showing work of well known global artists, Indian artists and students. For the next couple of days I walked around miles in Fort Kochi curiously seeking installations and sculptures.
A communist ‘party office’ doubles as a library at Kalvethy near Aspinwall House — the key venue of the Muziris Biennale.

But the best of the displayed work were in a few venues near the Mattancherry Palace. This calls for a long walk across the Island of Fort Kochi and I discovered hidden eateries for lunch. But that is for another rather long post. I went to David Hall to see ‘War of Relics’ by KG Subramanyan and another endearing electronic art by Lozano Hemmer called Pan-Anthem. S Anandan explains this work in The Hindu:

Pan-anthem’ , his interactive work at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale displayed at David Hall in Fort Kochi, comes alive when there’s a viewer. On the far left of the installation are speakers (with motion sensors that are activated in human presence) playing anthems of nations with low military spending and as the viewer moves rightward, anthems of nations with high per capita defence expenditure are played. “The work is a confluence of national anthems, used to visualise this peculiar defence statistics. It throws up interesting revelations such as the fact that India, known for its huge defence spending, is not so militaristic considering that its per capita military expenditure is not so high. The same installation can also be used to show per capital GDP of nations,” said the grand nephew of author, former Mexican Ambassador to India Octavio Paz.

The more contemporary pieces of work were at Gallery OED. I spent quite a while at this venue looking at a curated show called ‘Contemporary Contingencies’. This is probably the most well assembled set within a gallery. If you are going the Mattancherry do visit OED located in a quaint barn on the way to the Palace.

Inspiring paintings and sculptures at the show in Gallery OED.
The entrance to Gallery OED at Mattancherry.

And I saw more work in the Students’ Biennale and fabulous pieces at private galleries too. But I have tried to illustrate the interesting ones here. Unfortunately Fort Kochi was crowded over the Republic Day weekend. I need to see Kochi again without the Biennale and probably on a few weekdays. I need go for the food, if not for the art.