Note ban fails to dampen spirit of biennale

Construction of the set for Anamika Haksar's performance piece inches another step towards completion  

It was like a bolt from the blue.

The overnight withdrawal of the most circulated currency notes almost threw a spanner in the spadework for the forthcoming edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale, as the organisers suddenly found themselves not able to pay wages to the 150-odd carpenters, masons, electricians, welders, painters, and other workers contracted to get the venues ready before the contemporary festival of art begins on December 12.

“It dealt a huge blow to all of us — workers, artists, skilled artisans and support staff — who have been working in a time-bound fashion in view of the brief schedule of several artists and technicians in the city in the preparatory phase. Nevertheless, work never came to a complete halt,” said Bose Krishnamachari, president of the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF). Indeed, currency shortage did create a few hiccups initially, but “it is the people [the workers] who have known us over the years, so we managed,” said Biennale chief executive Manju Sara Rajan.

“We have begun to pay those with bank accounts online and asked others to open accounts,” she added.

Even as the venues are getting ready and construction is apace at key venues like Aspinwall House and Cabral Yard where major installations are coming up, shipping of art works from various parts of the world is in progress.

“It is a huge task, also counting that we must return most of these works at the close of the biennale. This, despite the fact that some artists are okay with maintaining their works here, but we do not have a permanent venue. The State government has, however, promised us all support and may extend help in this regard,” said Mr. Krishnamachari. The upcoming edition, estimated to have an all-up cost of Rs.27 crore, will see 97 artists from across the world showcasing their works in the main show held across 12 venues.

Besides the regular venues, the main biennale will also have, for the first time, a venue at Kottappuram, in collaboration with the Muziris Heritage Project.

The State government is set to release the first instalment of Rs.7.5 crore it pledged for the coming edition, but the heads of the artists-run biennale toured the country and outside over the past few months to mobilise funds.

“We have received patronage from kind souls and while we are still struggling, we are managing the show. Then there are those who have supported us in kind,” said Mr. Krishnamachari.

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Printable version | Oct 31, 2020 8:00:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/Note-ban-fails-to-dampen-spirit-of-biennale/article16716393.ece

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