Kochi, Kerela, India
Bose Krishnamachari & Riyas Komu
Kochi Biennale Foundation
A series of works from Desert of Pharan were presented in Kerela, India as part of the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The works focussed on the story of Adam and Eve. Ahmed explains the project: "Behind the hajj pilgrimage is the first love story, which also connects Mecca to India. It follows immediately after Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise. As the Islamic scholar Ibn Abbas, cousin of Prophet Muhammad, recounts: Adam was cast down in India and Eve in Jeddah. Adam went in search of her until they met and Eve drew near to him. With this story in mind, the hajj becomes the collective quest of more than three million people for the original love, converging on the spot of Mecca."
There couldn’t have been a better space than Kochi for symbolic free speech, a space for expressions created and leveraged by the various social activist movements. Kochi is the confluence of heterogeneity, a city where more than 30 non-Malayali communities have, over the centuries, come to find refuge, trade, proselytise and much else, only to develop roots and integrate into the local society. It is to this shore that one would bring in the practice of contrasting problems or adverse imagery with constructive imagery to create a force, specificity, confidence and conviction sometimes lacking in the more general, wishful, positive images. Critical imagery can only have its genesis in a shared space where celebrations of ethnicity or historical themes can collapse into metonymic utterances that cancel the distinctions between places and boundaries, aesthetics and politics, between life and art.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale explores the possibilities of blurring the boundaries, in a geographical region where boundaries are blurred in a local and cosmopolitan way, where the surroundings offer inspiration by way of the character of the place one can exhibit in. It can generate response to something that is already there as a public space in the neighborhoods, where perceived political content has been a major determinant of what survives and of what gets created as art in the first place.
Kochi’s cosmopolitanism is one that has been worn by generations in Kerala as a badge of honour even as it has led to a series of struggles, time and again, generating a curiosity about current realities, a complex one. It is one that is at the crux of the civilisational crisis — one that is economical, ideological and, thereby geo-‐political. The compendium of these complexities is what gives this biennale a context and an enquiry. It is a quest that brought the world to these shores and it is the allure of possibilities that inspired great thinkers and saints to embark on numerous adventures — of the body and the mind. The trails they have left behind needs treading upon at this juncture to make a provocative investigation into the entrails of all the conflicts that we see around the world. Conflicts that lend a modern explanation for the mutual distrust and misgivings that pervades in not just the immediate society but also snapping at the delicate fabric of India’s assertion as a nation-‐state and the globe that is ironically celebrating its flat character at the same time.
It is in this backdrop of an earnest enquiry that we propose to make Kochi the repository of emerging ideas and ideologies, an occasion to explore a mechanism to process, reflect and rewrite history, different histories, local, individual and collective that would confluence at Kochi. The Kochi Muziris Biennale proposes to open a new discourse, one that will explore a new, hitherto unknown language of narration.
Bose Krishnamachari & Riyas Komu