As many as 28 students from India’s premiere educational institutions travelled to Kochi over the last two weeks to work on projects as part of the higher education initiative of the forthcoming Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB).

Students from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Mumbai; the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University (CEPT), Ahmadabad; Sir JJ School of Art, Mumbai; MS University of Baroda, Vadodara; and the University of Hyderabad came down to tour the biennale exhibition sites and Muziris heritage sites to do the groundwork for their projects at the country’s maiden biennale beginning 12/12/12.

The students’ research trip, aimed at laying the foundations of a dialogue with the youth in a bid to offer them the chance to present collective or individual site-specific works at the biennale, had the students tour Fort Kochi, Mattancherry and Muziris heritage sites of Muziris.

They also took a ferry to Vypeen to learn about the flood of 1341 that changed the course of the Periyar river and silted over the ancient port city of Muziris.

“It will be a tremendous opportunity for us, students, to be part of the event. I’ve been to the city before, but this time around, we got to see the unusual exhibition venues of the biennale,” says Harshika Amin, who pursues Postgraduation in art design and communication at CEPT.

Harshika was part of a batch of four students, with multiple interests, from the university who contemplates presentation of a collective installation coupled with performances at the biennale.

“After seeing the rich historic sites, we’ve got ideas in our heads. Our mode of involvement at the event would be finalised after a few rounds of discussions and consultations,” she says.

Sharmila Sagara, on the faculty at CEPT who accompanied her students to Kochi, says her students would get credits for their work at the biennale.

“Students of the two-year art design and communication course are supposed to take up studio work as part of their course. It is a great chance for them to put up their work here and they will get credits for that.

“As the four students are from different backgrounds — while three of them graduated in architecture, a student specialised in visual arts — we will sit together and brainstorm about their project.

“It will be a collective work with representative individual contributions, and definitely with a connection to the architectural heritage of history of Kochi,” Ms. Sagara says.

The team from IIT Powai, Mumbai, comprised two students from ‘interactive design’ stream, two from technology and development, and a student doing chemical engineering.

Glimpse of history

“It felt wonderful to have a glimpse of the history of Kochi. We will mostly present something interactive in nature, incorporating robotics influenced by the way Chinese fishing nets function.

“ We might also think about creating awareness on solar panels by including them in our project at the biennale,” says Sajal Nagwanshi, student under the Industrial Design centre of the IIT.

“Education is at the heart of the Kochi Muziris Biennale. Through an integrated, long-term sustained programme of activities, the biennale aims to create a dialogue of critical debate to be explored in a wider context of visual arts in Kochi, India and internationally.

“It seeks to create a collaborative model with educational bodies, communities, young people and cultural partners, which will cross traditional boundaries between academic disciplines and schools of thought as new interpretations are emerging in an Indian cultural context.

“This long term engagement is fundamental to KMB’s mission to evolve visual art practices and theory in India today,” says Padmini Jai Krishnan, KMB’s Education/ Outreach Manager.

Young scholars from institutions across India toured Kochi as part of the biennale's higher education initiative.