Contemporary art is opening a new road to connect to the heritage of the ancient Kochi-Muziris region of Kerala to carry it to the world through a series of reconnecting works in a variety of mediums, on display at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012.
The ancient port city of Muziris — now being excavated — was a key transit point on the Indo-Roman and the Indo-Greek trade route since 1st century BC while its twin city Kochi has been a cultural melting pot for the last six centuries.
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 — India’s first official biennale of contemporary art beginning December 12 — has drawn 88 artists from 24 countries and nearly 1,500 performers.
In a large dimly lit space at the Aspwinwall House in Mattancherry, a group of workmen are assembling thousands of brown clay pottery shards, excavated from the ruins of Muziris in Pattanam, into an abstract miniature of the port city that was destroyed in a flood in the Periyar River in 1341 AD.
Next to Sundaram’s heritage installation hangs a 60-ft long wooden trading boat, a realistic installation by artist Subodh Gupta. The boat, traditional in design, is a replica of the vessels used to ferry spices and goods on the high seas off the Mattancherry coast. The installations meld into the history of the venue — the old Aspinwall & Company Ltd, a spice firm established 1867 by English trader John H. Aspinwall.
The sea outside the historic Pepper House flows into artist K.P. Regi’s canvas. The imagery is a direct transposition of Regi’s interpretation of the arrival of the Indian Navy aircraft carrier at Cochin harbour in a photo-realistic style. Regi says his work explores “the layers of Kochi’s history — from its days of pastoral innocence to the years of Mahatma Gandhi, independence of India, the Left politics and weapons of war on the town’s historic waters”.
The Dutch-style waterfront Pepper House is a living heritage of change. Once consisting of two spice godowns with clay roofs and a central courtyard, the building has been restored as a modern multi-use space to host art and culture.IANS