I want to make this year’s Kochi Biennale really inclusive: Anita Dube

 Art historian and artist Anita Dube

Art historian and artist Anita Dube

Appearing first as a manifesto ‘Questions and Dialogue’, Anita Dube’s sharp critiques on the commodification of art accompanied a seminal show by the Radical Painters and Sculptors Association in the Faculty of Fine Arts at MSU Baroda in 1987. After the closure of the influential Association, Dube began seriously pursuing visual arts, using sculpture, installation, found objects and new materials to create conceptually-rich, politically-driven artworks.

In the first edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), Dube – who has exhibited across the world – delighted viewers with ‘Splitting the Subject’, an installation that used space, sculpture and sound to create an immersive environment, at once critical and humourous. Dube will have the distinction of being the first woman curator of the KMB.

In an exclusive interview with FridayReview , she discusses the responsibility that comes with the prestigious role, the challenges ahead, and what viewers can look forward to this year.

You participated in the first KMB and now are the curator of the fourth edition. Both roles are very different. How are you negotiating that?

These are two completely different things. My first encounter, as a participant in 2012, was with the most amazing sites, then unused: Aspinwall House, Cabral Yard, Pepper House, and David Hall.

Such special spaces are a reason why the Biennale here has been such a success, and continued every two years. Having been a visitor to all three Biennale editions, I have both a sensual and functional awareness of the sites. As an artist for more than a decade, I have been exhibiting internationally and following artists whom I have admired for a very long time. You get an understanding of the process and form an empathetic bond, a visceral connect, with other practitioners. That is my insight as artist-curator. Now, the challenge is how to construct this monumental event of 85 artists and projects. What is placed where, and next to what? This is the exercise we are going through. What kind of rhythm to build? It’s like a symphony, conducting a massive orchestra.

 Anita Dube’s work Missing Since 1992

Anita Dube’s work Missing Since 1992

Can you give us a hint of your curatorial vision? What can we look forward to?

When I was given the role at the end of March 2017 for the fourth edition, the first thing that came to my mind was something intuitive – to consider the possibilities for a non-alienated life. The Biennale will explore that. I am looking at works that will engage people. I don’t want people to be passive spectators or passive consumers of culture. As a curator, I will try my best to involve and positively impact as many people as possible, through the art works, the sites, and the various activities we are planning.

And how would you specifically want to do so?

I have thought of the biennale in two parts. There will be the exhibition, and there will be an open space, a pavilion, where all kinds of activities will take place. There will be no tickets, it will function like an open classroom and not necessarily with no hierarchies of knowledge. Every person has a lot to offer – I would like to listen to all kinds of voices from within and without. Everybody is welcome.

Through the freedom that is still made available by the Internet, people can come and share their stories. I hope, especially, that young people will be enthused by it. It will be a give-and-take space. Give anything – a poem, a lecture, a film clip... there will be blackboards, open mics letting various people express themselves.

Of course, there will also be organised elements such as performances, impromptu jamming, cinema, lectures and music. It will be at Cabral Yard and will be open to all. I would be delighted if the residents of Kochi and all visitors feel they really own this space.

 Anita Dube’s Splitting The Subject

Anita Dube’s Splitting The Subject

What will this space symbolise?

It would be like a knowledge laboratory: if you hang around for all 108 days of the biennale, listen to music, lectures, performances contributed by visiting luminaries and local participants alike, and maybe share something yourself, it could feel like one big learning experiment. I hope that there will be a fine mix of pedagogy, pleasure and exchange.

As the first woman curator, will we see a lot of women artists?

As the first woman curator of the KMB, I take the role seriously – it is an opportunity with tremendous responsibility, especially towards the wonderful women artists whose work I admire.

Often, if women’s work is considered at all, older women get sidelined. The Biennale can provide a platform for the work of older women artists as well. We are working to ensure that there will be a dynamic representation of artists from all over the world.

 Anita Dube’s Strike

Anita Dube’s Strike

Yours was a political voice in 1987, as part of the Radical Group. Can we expect political art?

The Biennale is not going to be political in a sloganeering sense – sometimes these positions can be counter-productive and polarising. I want to make this event really inclusive: to include Dalit artists, folk and tribal artists, queer artists who have too often kept in the margins of contemporary art discourse.

You have travelled internationally as part of your curatorial work. Can you tell us a bit about that process?

I have travelled more through the Global South than Europe and America. I wanted to focus on these regions – Latin America, West Asia, South-East Asia, African nations. They were fascinating experiences, and ones that I plan to share in part through the wide range of art we are working to showcase during the Biennale.

How many artists, venues and showstoppers?

There will be collateral events, but venue-wise, we will be more concentrated than before. I don’t want it too scattered. There is an enormous amount of work and I have put aside my practice for a year-and-a-half. And yes, there will be some top artists but I am not revealing names just yet!

( The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is from December 12, 2018 to 29 March, 2019 .)

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 7:09:00 pm |