The Durbar Hall and its grounds are in the heart of the city, near Kochi’s main railway station Ernakulam South. Built in the 1850s by the Maharaja of Cochin to host his Royal court, the Durbar Hall has had many incarnations over its 150 year history. Recent extensive renovation works by the Kochi Biennale Foundation have transformed the present Durbar Hall gallery into an international museum quality exhibition venue.

Work No. 232: the whole world + the work = the whole world \ Martin Creed
Considering their sheer minimalism and self-effacing tone, Scottish artist Martin Creed’s whimsical works often attract extreme reactions from critics and the public alike. His 2001 Turner Prize-winning 'Work No. 227: The lights going on and off' — an installation composed of an empty gallery illuminated at intervals by a light bulb — aroused both admiration and outrage, with many visitors reportedly walking out in protest. 
Phenomenon of Times \ Annie Lai Kuen Wan
For Annie Lai Kuen Wan, casting domestic objects in ceramic is a way of exploring her relationship to the material world and time. She creates out of commonplace articles— phones, calculators, cans or tetra-packs from departmental stores — their impressions and copies in unglazed ceramic, reincarnating them as if they were fossils from another time.
An obsession with the nature of time and the material world’s relationship to it drives much of the artist’s recent work, among them the sculptural installation 'Phenomenon of Times' (2014). Here, Wan explores our relationship to time through history books – objects that are receptacles of the sequential narratives through which humanity constructs its existence in linear time.

With a gestural regularity reminiscent of the act of reading, the artist brushed every page of the nine-volume History of India by 19th century Indian civil servant and historian Romesh C Dutt (published in 1906) with clay.

She then fired the clay-coated books till all the paper burned off, leaving just the ceramic shell. Wan thus erases all traces of an oft-recited account of the past even as she records its demise in scorched earth.

Porcelain, tablet with video \ 9 ceramics, 8.26 X 9.05 X 1.57 in each

According to the artist, the past, present and future reveal simultaneously in these sculptures. By interrogating our linear relationship to time through them, she is reflecting on the “lightness or nothingness of time”. A video illustrating the process that went into the creation of 'Phenomenon of Times' is also part of the installation. 
History is Made at Night (Kochi) \ Daniel Boyd
A recurring motif in the works of Daniel Boyd, an Australian artist of aboriginal ancestry, are resin dots that he lays over a painted image before painting the whole surface in black. This creates a constellation of ‘lenses’ revealing parts of the underlying image. According to Boyd, Gestaltism’s ‘Law of Closure’ about the human mind’s tendency to fill gaps in a given set of information to perceive a whole, and its central principle, “the whole is other than the sum of its parts,” are useful in reading his paintings.

Oil, charcoal and archival glue on linen \ 77.95 X 118.11 in

'Untitled (ZVC)' is based on the engraving of an 1898 Portuguese painting depicting Vasco da Gama’s meeting with the Zamorin of Calicut. The diptych made up of 'Untitled (KC) 1' and 'Untitled (KC) 2' shows 11th century gold coins of the Kilwa Sultanate in East Africa that were recovered along with coins of the Dutch East India Company from Marchinbar Islands in Northern Australia. As Boyd points out, Gama had extorted a tribute of gold coins from the King of Kilwa while en route to the Malabar Coast on his second voyage. The coins thus form a possible link that connects India’s Western Coast to the indigenous Yolngu people of Northern Australia through the transactional network of colonialism.

'Untitled (SC)' and 'Untitled (PSM)' are linked by their celestial references. The latter shows a traditional Polynesian navigational star map while the former refers to a 1906 photograph by J W Beattie of the Anglican missionary vessel ‘Southern Cross’. The name Southern Cross has multiple associations, from a constellation to the Christian Crucifix and the Australian National flag.
We Are All Astronauts \ Julian Charrière
French-Swiss artist Julian Charrière’s works explore changing perceptions of time and space in a world accelerated and flattened by globalisation; often investigating ways in which the virtual world dictates our experience of the ‘real’. Charriere’s explorations of these ideas often result in dramatic, near-absurd interventions in a wide range of places. In 2012, he made 'Blue Fossil Entropic Stories', for which he climbed atop an Icelandic glacier with a blow torch and tried to melt it for 8 hours in an attempt to burn what is, to the artist, a vast natural reservoir of time.
Charrière’s exhibit at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014 is linked to an earlier project, 'Monument – Sedimentation of Floating World' (2013), for which he collected mineral samples from all recognised nations in the world. He mixed these with cement to cast a pillar, pinning down into a ‘concrete’ form nations and cultures that often exist for his audience only as floating entities in a virtual world.

Leftover mineral samples from this project were used to make ‘international sandpaper’, with which the artist scraped the surfaces of 13 found globes manufactured between 1890 and 2011, creating smooth spheres shorn of all markings.

Charrière’s installation at the biennale, 'We Are All Astronauts' (2013), consists of these globes hung over a table on which are scattered the sandpapered remnants of their surfaces.

The artist’s act of erasure mirrors the flattening of boundaries and differences that characterises the age we live in. It simultaneously evokes natural processes ever at work, constantly reshaping the contours of the world.
Silence and Its Reflections \ Hema Upadhyay
Hema Upadhyay channels personal memories of migration — her family’s displacement during the partition of India and her own difficult transition to Mumbai — into works that explore through a gendered lens the sense of fear, dislocation and fragmentation of identity that the experience can trigger. In several works, she has inserted her own image into canvases that reflect on her encounter with the city of Mumbai, home to opulent and insular high rises as well as sprawling slums where battles over ‘development’ unfold daily.
'Silence and Its Reflections' (2014) is a series of six panels made of rice that mirror the undulating surface of an ocean. The waves within these ‘rice scapes’ carry miniscule fragments of text that have been handwritten on the grains. The panels are accompanied by magnifying glasses using which audiences can read these texts.

Each panel by Upadhyay contains 35 quotations that the artist has sourced from roadside signs, textbooks, newspapers or the boundary walls of churches and schools.

Meant for passers-by and often overly rhetorical in nature, these phrases acquire a certain solemnity when displaced on to the rice panels.

Combined with the powerful, wave-like gestural component — that of following the flow of texts on the panels through a looking glass — the work leads viewers into states of reflection.
Still Life \ Shahpour Pouyan
Iranian artist Shahpour Pouyan’s works investigate the geometries of power, looking at the shapes in which it has manifested in history. Born in Iran in the year of the Islamic revolution, Pouyan childhood was dominated by the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war that also broke out in the same year. His father was a military engineer. It is no surprise then that his work has consistently engaged with the contours of conflict, using the arresting beauty of installations and drawings to draw viewers’ attentions to unsettling histories of warfare.
'Still Life' (2014), one of Pouyan’s exhibits, is a three-dimensional recreation in ceramic of a World War-I photograph of confiscated German shells. Apart from referring to the devastation caused by the war, the title alludes to the eerie resemblance the photographer’s aesthetic display of shells on a tabletop bears to arrangements used in still life paintings.
'Unthinkable Thought' (2014) is a survey of the architectures of power; drawn by Pouyan from various locations but united by their shapes and ideological functions. Included in this delicate installation are the domes of the pantheon in Rome and the unrealised Volkshalle (People’s Hall) designed for Adolf Hitler. Also recreated is a terracotta dome from medieval Egypt and elements from Iran’s architectural history such as the conical dome of Seljuk-era buildings and the onion-shaped dome of Isfahan’s Shah Masjid. The final edifice is the fictional ‘Dome of Iranistan’: An ornamented black dome that embodies Iran’s ambitions for power in the Middle East.

'Peak Damavand' (2014) depicts Damavand, Iran’s tallest mountain and an icon of national pride. The soaring peak has been drawn upside down, evoking the anatomy of nuclear explosions through which nation states across the world have sought to brandish their capacities for destruction.

Kazi in Nomansland \ Naeem Mohaiemen
Naeem Mohaiemen is a visual artist and writer based in Dhaka and New York. In his essays, films, photography and mixed media installations, Mohaiemen excavates episodes from Bangladesh’s post-liberation history. 'Kazi in Nomansland' (2008) is a part of an ongoing project chronicling the life of Kazi Nuzrul Islam (1889-1976), a rebel Bengali Muslim poet and the only figure whose legacy has been claimed and commemorated in postage stamps by all three countries — India, Pakistan and Bangladesh — born out of the partition of British India.

Towers made of these stamps issued by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh form the core of Mohaiemen’s installation at the biennale. They are poignant reminders of a figure whose voice now lies lost in the no-man’s-land between national appropriations, trampled on by the very divisive ideologies he raged against.

As Mohaiemen writes in his essay 'Kazi in Nomansland', the poet, who had opposed plans to partition British India along communal lines, had by 1947 developed a condition that impaired his speech and memory and ultimately left him in a vegetative state.

After his family decided to stay on in India post-1947, he came to be celebrated in India as a mute testament to its secular credentials.

As the Bengali Nationalist movement gathered strength in what was then East Pakistan, the then Pakistani establishment sought to counter the dominance of the ‘Hindu poet’ Rabindranath Tagore by rebranding Kazi as a ‘Muslim poet’, even rewriting some of his poetry in the process.

In 1971, with the formation of Bangladesh, Indian government flew the ailing poet to Dhaka where he lived till his death in 1976 while under virtual house arrest by the military government headed by Ziaur Rahman.

Routes AP \ Mona Hatoum
Cartographic themes find expression in a large number of works by Mona Hatoum, a British artist of Palestinian descent. Born to exiled Palestinian parents in Beirut, Lebanon, Hatoum was in the UK when a civil war broke out in Lebanon, preventing her return. It is perhaps her experience as an exile that prompts Hatoum’s interest in the relationship between power and cartographic constructions of space.
In 1996, during a visit to Jerusalem, she made 'Present Tense' (1996) an installation made of locally produced soap bars on which Hatoum etched with red beads the fragmented map of Palestine drawn up under the Oslo accord. Maps recur in several of Hatoum’s works, such as 'Hot Spot' (2006), where she outlined continents on a steel globe using neon tubes that glowed like heated wires, or 'Projection' (2006), a deceptively simple map of the world made on off-white cotton that follows Peters Projection – a controversial representation of continental masses that rejects the traditional world map with its inflated Northern Hemisphere.

Exhibited at the Biennale, 'Routes AP' (2003) is a playful intervention on maps found in in-flight magazines.

For these drawings, Hatoum filled with colour the spaces that lie between lines denoting aircraft movement.

The resultant mesh resembles a complex climatic map that disrupts national boundaries and liberates the landscape.

Pen and ink on printed maps (five parts) \ Dimensions variable

World on Its Hind Legs \ William Kentrdige
Gandhi and Gama \ Gulammohammed Sheikh
One of India’s leading artists as well as a writer and pedagogue, Gulammohammed Sheikh is known for weaving into his works layers of references drawn from literature, art history, politics and autobiography.

'Gandhi and Gama' (2014) is a triptych that imagines a confrontation across centuries between two key protagonists in the story of colonialism in India.

In it, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama, whose arrival in Malabar in the 15th century inaugurated the European scramble for India, looks across a mappa mundi (a medieval hand-drawn map of the world) at a young Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi contemplating the demise of the British Raj in the 20th century.

Triptych \ Acrylic on canvas \ 113.5 X 113.5 in (central panel), 113.5 X 66 in (left and right panels each)

The mappa mundi is a recurrent motif in Sheikh’s works. In several paintings, he has used a combination of digital collage and painting to rework these medieval European imaginings of the world by incorporating elements drawn from India.
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