Muziris Biennale Foundation on Thursday organised a trip to the biennale exhibition sites in Fort Kochi.

In order to familiarise Kochiites with the forthcoming Kochi-Muziris Biennale and to inculcate in them a sense of ownership of the three-month-long visual art fete, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation on Thursday organised a trip to the biennale exhibition sites in Fort Kochi.

As many as 50 people, including students, streamed in for the educational tour. Later in the day, an interaction with artists K.P. Reji and Shreyas Karle was held in the city in collaboration with Orthic Creative Centre.

Taking the audience through his works, the Baroda-based Malayali artist demonstrated how he has been able to fashion a narrative style that owes immensely to his formative days in Kerala even as it retained the craft he acquired in the Baroda arts school.

Deadpan sarcasm and a satirical if not subversive look at his environs characterise his works that feature in great detail knick-knacks, which play as unmistakable a role as the objects in the foreground. A great observer, Mr. Reji’s works have drawn life from their socio-political milieu. Artists such as Bhupen Khakhar and Jyothi Basu, Hollywood motifs and those used by Alfred Hitchcock, books like Pearl S. Buck’s Good Earth, subverted mythology and his immediate neighbourhood in Baroda provide material for Mr. Reji.

As he said, he was able to incorporate in one of his works the sickle and hammer without alluding to their political import. Works like ‘Just Above My Head’ reveal his attention to the presumably insignificant objects in everyday life. Images of displacement, as brought out in the ‘To move the Mountain’ series; thoroughly localised perceptions of mundane chores; a snickering look at his own dilemmas as seen in ‘Design for pressure cooker’ which was done when he was building a house; and an ability to underplay a dire situation with room for interpretation mark his works, as the audience understood on Thursday.

“They may look pretty simple, but are extremely complex and political, conjuring up a cognitive narrative of political Kerala from a marginalised, perhaps Dalit perspective,” said artist Riyas Komu.

Interactiveness is made possible by Mr. Reji’s protagonists who seek to engage the viewers in a friendly banter. Recurrent images, characters, symbols (like that of the petty blast) and thematic underplay at once render continuity and a certain mock-seriousness to Mr. Reji’s narrative.

Meanwhile, Mumbai-based artist Karle employs parody ad campaigns of yore, fabricated cultural history and anthropology and absurd signifiers to capture the devastating realities of life. If his project on nose-digging, shown on Thursday, was a ‘Carnivalesque’ study in an attempt to centralise the berated pastime, ‘Bengaluru watching’, on the anthropology of demons put up before houses to ward off evil eye, was a uniquely interactive project with the participation of people from different strata of society. As an artist with greater international exposure, Mr. Kale is a fervent advocate of artist-in-residence programmes. A former teacher, he calls for an overhaul of the system of art pedagogy.

The proposed biennale, he hoped, would help ‘Indian art’ grow out of its exotic image abroad in the eyes of foreigners. “Works from India, when shown aboard, invariably carry the Indian art tag because Indian art is still exotic for them. It is not treated as international art. With the biennale bringing artists from abroad onto Indian soil, we would probably be able to get rid of the label,” he said.

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