Sudarshan Shetty on the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) 2016

By Jyotsna Sharma   1 Dec, 2016


12/12/16 will usher in the third edition of the Kochi Biennale. Here are the excerpts of my conversation with Sudarshan Shetty, the curator of KMB 2016.


KMB 2016 will feature 97 artists, cutting across multitudinous disciplines, forms and styles. The list includes writers, dancers, poets, musicians and theatre practitioners along with a host of visual artists from 36 countries. It will run for 108 days till March 2017 and is titled, ‘Forming in the pupil of an eye’. I had the opportunity to speak to Sudarshan Shetty, the curator of the Biennale. The previous editions also saw eminent artists as curators of the Biennale. (Bose Krishnamachari & Riyas Komu led the inaugural edition in 2012 and Jitish Kallat curated the 2014 edition)


According to him, when he was asked to be the curator, his first impulse was to come up with a brief that would be drawn from his own artistic practice.  However, he realized that this might not include other worldviews. To come up with an appropriate theme, he started having conversations with art practitioners. It emerged that one cannot engage with a world that is contemporary without referencing the past. Also, as a part of these conversations they explored the meaning of ‘contemporary’ within the art world. They examined conventional and the ‘not so conventional’ art world practices.


This dialogue led him to find intriguing practices outside of the conventional art world and also aided him to look at the art world with a different perspective. As a result, KMB seeks to question the labels attributed to, and blur the lines between, various modes of artistic expression.


Another key element of his curatorial vision was to look at the projects as a legacy of the biennale. The nature of the spaces (the various locations within Kochi) was very important in the curatorial vision as well.  It helped that the places were informal and not the typical white cube spaces used to display art.


When I asked him about the projects to be watched, pat came the reply “all 97”. The projects by poets, actors and dancers practicing at the Biennale are intriguing, owing to the fact that they are practicing in a place meant for visual arts. He believes these practitioners have stretched themselves and appropriated their practice within this space extremely well.


There are 36 Indian artists from across the country participating in the Biennale.  KMB 2016 will feature works by master cartoonist E.P. Unny, eminent Malayalam litterateur Anand, renowned graphic artist Orijit Sen, stage performances by Anamika Haksar and Kalakshetra Manipur, Sangam poetry recitals, dance performances and printmaking, among other artistic mediums.

Jyotsna Sharma is the Editor of The Wall. The Wall has been India's most well read art magazine for the last five years, subscribe and get access to premium content for free. Subscribe or read the magazine at