La Perle Noire II: Aspinwall House,

Nikhil Chopra

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

Kochi-Muziris Biennale
Fort Kochi, India

Artist Nikhil Chopra’s works are live, improvised acts of fantasy and masquerade in which autobiographical details and everyday gestures are put into dialogue with collective memories and experiences embedded in the sites where a performance unfolds. As Chopra takes on one or more fictional personas, generating panoramas of charcoal drawings and paintings in the process, identities are rendered fluid and history is rearranged.

Alongside themes such as the role of autobiography, the pose and self-portraiture, one of the issues Chopra’s performances dwell on is India’s colonial history and the complexity of identities that emerge from it. His performance La Perle Noire II: Aspinwall House, is a 50-hour-long live act based on an ambiguous colonial character named the La Perle Noire (or the Black Pearl). Chopra will inhabit a cell within the Aspinwall House during the course of the performance. According to the artist, the Black Pearl is both ruler and subject; monster and angel. He is armoured, yet defeated and is also a metaphor for that ubiquitous spice, pepper, which has drawn traders to the Malabar Coast since antiquity.

Dressed in European clothing reminiscent of Portuguese explorers from the Age of Discovery, the Black Pearl observes the Periyar River and draws what he sees on the walls of his cell. The drawings create on the walls the illusion of land and water. Soon, the prison is turned inside out. The walls seem to disappear into the drawings, giving the Black Pearl a chance to escape his prison.


  • Title: La Perle Noire II: Aspinwall House,
  • Creator: Nikhil Chopra
  • Type: Live performance
  • Gallery: Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi
  • First Creator: 1974
  • Date of artwork's creation: 2014
  • Creator's practice: Goa, India
  • Creator's date of birth: Allahabad, India.

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