Eminent artist and art scholar Balan Nambiar has thrown his weight behind the proposed Kochi Muziris Biennale, saying that if held properly, the international art event will catapult the region into international standing.

“It will also boost the region's economic status,” the Bangalore-based artist, who is a member of the Lalit Kala Akademi, Delhi, told The Hindu. Mr. Nambiar has attended seven Kassel Documentas (exhibition of modern and contemporary art every five years), 15 Venice Biennales — the oldest with a history of 116 years — and presented his works in the 1982 edition of the Venice Biennale.

Mr. Nambiar thinks that Kochi doesn't boast the infrastructure to host such a grand show of contemporary visual art.

“But there must be a starting point and this could be the first,” he says. “Venice city, which thrives on tourism, sees to it that events such as biennales of visual arts and festivals of performance arts and architecture are conducted regularly and efficiently. The city has a permanent set-up to handle these events. An international biennale in Kochi will definitely clear the misconceptions on contemporary art.”

According to Mr. Nambiar, dehydrated conservatism will not help the conduct of a modern event.

“The proponents of conservatism in Kerala are living like frogs in a well while the few so-called modernists are like ‘one-eyed kings in the kingdom of the blind'.

All those who stoutly oppose the unique attempt are those who smart at using words on a platform or in the media. How many of you have seen a national exhibition, leave alone an international exhibition? Barring a few like Kanayi Kunhiraman [who according to Mr. Nambiar is an international artist Kerala has failed to highlight] Vasudevan Namboodiri and N.N. Rimzon, who are the other artists in Kerala at present who merit national and international reputation?” he asks, adding that new media art is unheard of in the State.

As for the State Lalitha Kala Akademi, Mr. Nambiar feels it has not been able to make an impact at the national level. Arguing all biennales and documentas have created controversies, he hopes the uproar over the proposed Kochi Biennale will be an added publicity to the event. Controversies and skirmishes are better than indifference, which is intolerable, he guffaws.

Mr. Nambiar ascribes part of the blame for the controversy to the organisers of the biennale as well. It is unfortunate that they have not opened an office in Kochi from the beginning.

“They should have established a capable public relations wing based in Kochi and conducted a series of audio-visual presentations and lectures on various international biennales all over the region and to potential stakeholders to inculcate an interest in them as also to clear the misunderstandings about the proposed biennale,” he says.

Keywords: Balan Nambiar

More In: Kochi