Pepper House is a waterfront heritage property located on the Kalvathi Road in between Fort Kochi and Bazar Road. The building consists of two historic ‘godowns’ (an Indian word for a dockside warehouse), one facing the street and one overlooking the waterfront. These large, two-story buildings with Dutch style clay roofs are separated by a large courtyard which would have once been used for storing goods waiting to be loaded onto ships in the harbour.

458.42 m/sec \ Peter Rösel
German artist Peter Rösel’s works examine points where nature and civilisation intersect. He often juxtaposes the unlikeliest of materials and objects to tease out the absurdity and complexity of this interaction. Rösel’s exhibit at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, '458.42 m/sec' (2014), is a "mobile installation for demonstrating the velocity of the Earth’s rotation".

Assembled out of a violin-case in which the artist carries its components, this installation seeks to represent optically the speed at which the Earth’s surface moves through space as it rotates on its axis.

Matter \ N S Harsha
N S Harsha is known for paintings, installations and sculptures that are passages to highly detailed microcosms — what he likes to call "bird’s eye views" — of life. An enigmatic sculpture by Harsha, 'Matter' (2014) depicts a monkey holding close a roundular object with one of its hands while pointing towards the sky with the other.
This is not the first time that monkeys have appeared in the artist’s work. His 2013 public sculptural installation at Berlin’s Auguststrasse 10, 'Tamasha', showed a group of langurs that had taken possession of the building. In a scene reminiscent of several cities in India with a ‘monkey menace’, the animals perched on the building or hung from rails, their endlessly long tails forming a net over its façade. Drawing from local German myths about ‘rat kings’ —rats with conjoined tails that are said to be omens of impending plagues — Harsha depicted some members of this monkey mob with their tails joined together, rendering these foreign presences, harbingers of chaos, simultaneously exotic and unsettling. All members of the invading monkey mob had their fingers pointed towards the sky as if in warning.

If Tamasha depicted a collective with all its inherent entanglements, Matter condenses the same imagery to its bare minimum – a lone, sage-like monkey who is perhaps pointing us towards the mysteries of universe. According to Harsha, “This work formed from the depths of speechlessness.”

The Fires of Faith \ Benitha Perciyal
Benitha Perciyal’s installation 'The Fires of Faith' (2014), is an invitation to travel back in time to a seminal period in the cultural history of Malabar – the fabled arrival of the apostle St Thomas to Kodungalloor in Kerala, a site speculated to be related to the ancient sea port of Muziris. The saint brought Christ’s message to this distant coast in 52 CE, only a few decades after crucifixion.
Thomas, whose arrival is considered to have inaugurated Christianity’s spread in the Indian subcontinent, established the first churches in India in Kerala before travelling to other regions, including Mylapore near Chennai where he died. Simultaneously, other apostles were on similar quests elsewhere in the world – travelling by land and sea to fulfill the mission they had been entrusted with. Perciyal explores this history by addressing the rich image culture Christianity spawned in Kerala, starting with the image of Mary that Thomas is said to have brought with him to a profusion of hybrid icons that emerged as a new group of followers made the faith its own.

Arranged as if they were in a studio or an ancient merchant’s warehouse, Perciyal’s fragrant sculptures are cast in incense that she makes by mixing several natural ingredients such as bark powder, Gum Arabic, aromatic herbs and spices.

The fragility of incense and its capacity for constant change and rebirth turns the act of creating sculptures into a simultaneous act of mending and restoring, as if the artist was merely piecing together what had always existed.

Time leaves a visible imprint on these sculptures – cracks form and the fragrance fades. Laid bare in the humid sea front of Kochi, the figures will imbibe the salty air of the coast, undergoing a slow period of transformation during the three months of the Biennale.
Chronicle of the Shores Foretold \ Gigi Scaria
Kitchen Debate \  Prajakta Potnis
Prajakta Potnis’s 'Kitchen Debate' (2014) is named after a heated debate on capitalism and communism that took place in 1959 between then United States Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. The debate occurred in the middle of a model kitchen built for the American National Exhibition in Moscow. Nicknamed the ‘kitchen debate,’ the exchange brought down the monumental Cold War tussle between the US and the USSR to two men arguing bitterly in a make-believe kitchen.

Inspired by her excavation of this event, Potnis here proposes the kitchen — “a space where traditional and new value systems clash on a day-to-day basis” — as a site for dialogue.

The installation is composed of two slide projections, a digital video projection and a site-specific wall installation composed of laterite blocks embedded with fossil-like impressions of everyday objects such as redundant kitchen tools.

The slide projectors beam photographs of a working washing machine and a mixer grinder. By photographing these two everyday home appliances going through the daily grind, Potnis hopes to create a polemical conversation on repetition and consumption.

The single channel video was shot inside the sterile, temperature-controlled cavity of a refrigerator. An oversized cauliflower within the refrigerator emulates a frozen explosion, alluding simultaneously to the mushroom cloud and the fear of a nuclear war and to a more immediate danger – a genetically-modified vegetable.
Three decimal points/ Of a minute/ Of a second/ Of a degree \ Bharti Kher
'Three decimal points/ Of a minute/ Of a second/ Of a degree' (2014) is a multi-part, immersive installation which doubles as an abstract, quasi-philosophical meditation on geometry, time, materiality, cartography and a triangle as the embodiment of contradictions.
Composed of a series of suspended objects Kher calls "single points of contact" — triangles inside each of which swings a pendulum, seemingly unstable but never collapsing — the installation is: “A mobile that seeks to undervalue everything that is not abstruse. It is a point that marks the place and time and coordinates of where the world can stand still for a second of a minute of a degree. By both confronting and accepting gravitational forces, all objects can find their perfect equilibrium, poise and meaning.”
In her research, Kher was drawn to several references: The Penrose triangle as a visually fulfilled object that can never be resolved in three dimensions, astronomical charts by the medieval scholar Al-Biruni (973-1052 CE) and the 1400-year-old quest to determine the true shape of the earth which in the 19th century returned to India in the form of the triangulation survey of the meridian arc that runs from South India to Nepal and East to the Western Ghats.
One of many parallel geodetic quests, the ‘Great Triangulation Survey of India’ became one aspect of the colonial project through which India’s rivers, mountains and plains were meticulously measured for their worth to the Empire. In Kochi, the artist found one of its remnants, the mortar of a 60-feet-high survey tower from which a Banyan tree now grows.

Reflecting on the project, Kher writes: “Hundreds of men died, scores of elephants would move a mountain and then raze tree cover in a matter of weeks. Tea was served at 4. All perfectly mad. The survey maps are beautiful.”

long live the new flesh \ Navin Thomas
Navin Thomas describes his works as explorations of “electro-acoustic ecology, the system of things and how you and I coexist within it”. According to Thomas, what is classified as architecture — an intrusion on nature with its connotations of purity and fragility — is a vital aspect of the idea of ecology, coexisting with such things as trees and meadows.
A chronicler of what he calls the ‘private life of electronic appliances’, he is an avid collector of electronic junk. It is out of them that Thomas fashions installations and sculptures that act as intersections where the energy fields of things — the electro-acoustic ecologies — interact with and alter biological circuits. One such work is 'My love is an icy cold fever' (2011), an installation composed of a steel frame fitted with ultraviolet lights which, when lit up at night, sets off the frenzied behaviour of insects and other nocturnal animals. In these and other works, the artist engages with the ways in which biological systems respond to the data-rich, technology-saturated ‘sonic-magnetic environments' they inhabit.

Thomas’s installation at Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014, long live the new flesh (2014), is composed of two archery targets connected by an invisible, reverberating wave of sound. According to the artist, the installation is modelled on the idea of two lighthouses communicating with each other.

It creates an abstract symphony made of the sound of arrows being shot which, when echoed by the walls of the gallery, creates a sonic architecture of combat that forces viewers into an arena of invisible crossfire and conflicting energies.

In, Between the Pages \ Sumakshi Singh
Sumakshi Singh’s interactive installations play with perspective to create ‘illusions’ that allow viewers to inhabit and alter her imagery through their movements. 'Between the Pages' (2014) is an installation with references to the history of Kerala, both as a protagonist in the maritime voyages of the 14-17 centuries, and as a vibrant centre where early astronomer-mathematicians were fiercely pursuing the problems of locating themselves and the Earth within the cosmos.

Close to the entry to the gallery is a table where audiences get their first glimpse of the illusion: the projected view of two manuscript pages where the various elements — birds, whirling planets and viewers such as themselves — are in motion.

Turning away from it, they enter a 70 feet-long maze made of hanging paper scrolls that align from one angle to form the elusive manuscript page. These scrolls feature paintings, delicate collages and projected animations that bring to life a range of narratives: The cosmology of Surya Siddhanta, a Sanskrit treatise on astronomy dated to as far back as 4 CE; illustrations from the Hortus Malabaricus, a 17th century Dutch East India Company-initiated compendium on Kerala’s flora; and the mythology surrounding Vasco da Gama’s arrival in Calicut, poetically represented here by a star map of the sky as it appeared on the night he disembarked.

At the other end of the gallery, a second projection ties together these fragments of history through yet another aligned view of the illusion where viewers find themselves reflected back as a part of the image, transformed into one of the characters in the pastiche manuscript.

According to Singh, she has always considered voyages in the external world to be reflections of the inner journeys through which we seek to locate ourselves in “space, time, cultural history our own stories”.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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