Aspinwall House is a large sea-facing heritage property in Fort Kochi on the way to Mattancherry. The property was originally the business premises of Aspinwall & Company Ltd. established in 1867 by English trader John H Aspinwall. Under the guidance of Aspinwall the Company traded in coconut oil, pepper, timber, lemon grass oil, ginger, turmeric, spices, hides and later in coir, coffee, tea and rubber. The large compound contains office buildings, a residential bungalow and a number of warehouses and smaller outer-lying structures.
In a departure from the monumental installations and videos for which he is primarily known for, 'The Quiet Story (Kochi)' (2014), the work Op de Beeck has created for the Biennale, consists of a series of large black and white watercolours on paper presented in two rooms within the Aspinwall House.
The water colours were all realized overnight as the artist worked in isolation and in silence for hours. “That night, with both its peaceful tranquility and its latent derailment can be felt throughout the entire series”, Op de Beeck said.
Black and white water colours on Arches paper in wooden frames \ Different sizes
As the Iceboat begins to melt and topple towards the end, the artist seems to experience fleeting despair. But ultimately, Choksi embraces her surrender – a painful moment of loss redeemed by the possibility of rebirth. Viewed in Kochi, the sea breeze adds another layer to this work – exhuming narratives of doomed voyages of the past, the many sunken expeditions that define a coast as much as the ones that made it.
Video, colour, sound \ 13:35 min \ loop
The installation consists of ink drawings Velardie made of many such sinking islands, among them Minicoy in The Lakshadweep and the many islets that form The Maldives, both situated off the coast of Kerala. These are arranged in a rough geographic order on the walls of a gallery converted into an open globe by plotting meridians along its length.
'Swistik Pocket Knife' (2009) by Joze is a sculpture that incorporates into the compact body of a Swiss Army Knife weapons and other traditional or ritualistic tools from India. Like a glaring anomaly, the place occupied by can openers, screw drivers, scissors and nail clippers in an ordinary Swiss Knife is here occupied by implements such as the ‘Trishulam’ (trident), ‘Lavithram’ (sickle), 'Ankhusha' (a mahout’s goad) and ‘Eeli’ (coconut grater), adding up to a hybrid instrument resembling a multi-armed, weapon-wielding Hindu God.
In creating a likeness of one of the most precious commodities in the world in blood slides that are arranged like brickwork, Pandey creates a juxtaposition that evokes multiple connections between money, violence and mortality. The work acts as an unsettling interruption, forcing a confrontation with the sheer corporeality of our existence.
As Pandey points out, the Sanskrit word ‘Artha’ refers both to the pursuit of material wealth and the quest for meaning. According to him, the work seeks to recall the sacrifices made in the course of colonisation and the quest for land, power and wealth, and asks questions about “the price of progress and the relationship between worldly possessions and the purpose of life”.
In collaboration with scientists from the Institute of Aerospace Systems, Braunschweig University of Technology, Germany, Najjar created a video simulation in which each spherule represents one such object; starting with the very first object in space — the Sputnik satellite of 1957 — to an imagined vision of the future of space junk.
Single-channel video, HDV, stereo sound \ 6:00 min
When he returned from Moscow, Rajan brought home a 16mm Bolex Paillard camera with which he documented several of his subjects, especially Vaikom Muhammad Basheer with whom he shared a close friendship, on black and white film. His personal quest resulted in what now constitutes a rare and unparalleled archive of photographs and video footage.
Photographic prints \ Variable dimensions
It consists of a small-point light source fitted to the front of a moving toy train that runs slowly over rails laid on the gallery floor. Arranged around the rails are small objects, a majority of them everyday commodities picked from markets in Kochi. When illuminated at close range by the moving train, they produce a mesmerising procession of shadows that rise and fall, rescaling the relationship of these objects to the viewer’s body.
According to Kuwakubo, the objects are arranged in such a way that the shadows they throw remind a viewer of familiar images — a forest perhaps, or a tunnel or a cityscape — that each viewer might perceive differently, drawing from his or her own personal experiences. The installation thus creates a self-reflective space, summoning a viewer’s conscious and subconscious recollections.
Clemente came of age amidst the political strife of 1960s Italy. He was heavily influenced by artists of the Arte Povera movement. One of the key figures now associated with the ‘return to figuration’ in painting, his canvases are populated with intimate narrative fragments and are charged with erotic and mythic energy.
'Pepper Tent' (2014) is a part of the artist’s ongoing experiments with the form and structure of a tent. It is a tent covered in paintings made by Clemente in his studio in Brooklyn that was assembled in Rajasthan by Indian tent-makers. One finds here a chorus of imagery ranging from stars to pepper corns, from the high seas to the energy field of the human body, the sailing ship and the figure of a retreating navigator who drops his anchor and rests.
The title, 'Syzygy', invokes references to the term’s use in philosophy, where it denotes the union of two opposites; or astronomy, where it refers to a linear alignment of celestial bodies within a gravitational system. The film is a stop-motion animation created out of nearly 1,000 drawings Padamsee made, advancing visually a mathematical theory for ‘programming forms’. It opens with a line that stubbornly refuses to be fixed in a circle. Soon, horizontal and vertical lines appear that rearrange to form a number matrix out of which Padamsee draws combinations to plot a grid.
Also part of 'Zero to the Right' are wall murals made of marks the artist made on the wall as each dollar, dirham and rupee were counted. If the articulations in sound incorporated into the numbers the breath and rhythm of bodies that recited them, the drawings are the result of a similarly corporeal process of marking them by hand.