Of design and the art of curation

The dull grey of the tropical sea outside seems to have seeped into the corner room of the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s office at Kunnumpuram in Fort Kochi. But the man hunched over his MacBook in a room packed with shelves containing thick volumes presents a contrasting image.

Bose Krishnamachari, president of the foundation and co-founder of the Kochi Muziris Biennale, is in his trademark multicolour flower-patterned shirt and stylish spectacles. He looks up to say, “It’s all about design. Without design, there is nothing. Steve Jobs hired an artist, Jonathan Ive, to design his product. You may have invented something really great, but you need a design to showcase it. There is art everywhere. That is why you need a curator to point it out to you.”

And, that is why the foundation has engaged Blaise Joseph, an experienced artist who has designed community education projects, to lead its Art By Children Programme.

That is also the reason to commission gallery artists with a thing for graffiti, murals as they are called in the post-graffiti world, to work on specific projects on the streets of West Kochi.

First-time curators

With less than a week to go for the fourth edition of the KMB, Mr. Krishnamachari says except him everyone at the foundation is new. “It is a good thing as they are able to bring in a new perspective.” In an artist-driven biennale, someone like Anita Dube as curator helps tremendously.

“She was the only woman artist part of the short-lived radical art movement, with the others being Malayali men. She is bringing a slice of the movement to the biennale with K.P. Krishnakumar’s works. She has a great connect with this region. We requested her to take a look at African and South East Asian artists and sent her to 32 countries to scout for artists,” says Mr. Krishnamachari.

He says it was not out of sympathy that she picked over 50% of the participating artists from her own gender. “Their works have fit snugly to her emotional curatorial concept that hinges on inclusiveness. It is evident in the infra projects involving edible culture, of culinary history, and the participation of the Kudumbashree.”

Shaping sensibilities

The biennale, he says, has been able to gradually shape the sensibilities of the local population as well. “A 12-year-old child who viewed the biennale in 2012, the year of inception of KMB, has become an adult now and I am sure has a better understanding of art and life on the whole,” he says.

When art unites

The foundation received a whopping 4,000 applications in response to a call to select 120 volunteers to work for a subsistence grant of just ₹250 a day besides lunch and shelter.

“There are hundreds of youngsters passionate about art and are dedicated to its social cause. Same is the case when we went on the lookout for art mediators and interpreters. The selected people are from a range of occupations, but it is art that unites them. We gave them a workshop, preparing them for the job,” says Mr. Krishnamachari.


This time around, the main biennale will be on at 10 venues, spread across West Kochi, while the Students’ Biennale curated by six noted artists will be across seven venues. Works made by resident artists of Pepper House will be on display in situ. Besides, there will be nine collateral projects.

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Printable version | May 13, 2021 1:58:36 AM |

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