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Jitish Kallat on Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014

Typically you participate in biennials as an artist, not a curator. Do you see yourself taking on the latter role more often?

I do not know about taking on other curatorial projects in the future. I used to frequently write about contemporary art, so I do enjoy thinking about art from locations that are outside my own studio.

Could you briefly describe your curatorial focus and your artist selection process?

Two chronologically overlapping but perhaps directly unrelated historical episodes in Kerala became my points of departure. During the 14th to 17th centuries, the Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics made transformative propositions for locating human existence within the wider cosmos; this was also the time when the shores of Kochi were closely linked to the maritime chapter of the “Age of Discovery.” The maps changed rapidly in the 1500s with the arrival of navigators at the Malabar coast. The revised geography heralded an age of exchange, conquest and colonialism, animating the early processes of globalization. The historical and the intergalactic became recurrent references within the exhibition, as two ways of addressing the present by making departures in space and in time.

An analogy could be drawn to gestures we make when we try to understand something. We might either go close to it or move away from it in space, to see it clearly. We may also reflect back or forth in time to understand the present. The exhibition draws upon this act of deliberation to bring together artworks that picture versions of the world referencing history, geography, astronomy, time, myth — interlacing the terrestrial with the celestial. The process of inviting artists has been primarily one of responding to the ever-changing biology of the project, as every invitation greatly alters the constellation of signs. In some ways one invitation led quite naturally to the next one.

Could you mention a few highlights to look forward to this December?

There will be seminars and talks held every week, under the title “History Now.” There will also be the Student’s Biennale, a pilot program opening on December 13, which will engage students from art colleges across India. Also, an artist’s cinema project has been conceptualized, which will be curated by eminent personalities from the worlds of cinema and art.

by Veeranganakumari Solanki