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Aspinwall House to be permanent venue of Kochi Biennale

KOCHI: In line with his budgetary allocation of a permanent venue for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kerala Finance Minister Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac said here on March 20 that the state government had decided to make Aspinwall House the home of India’s only Biennale.

Dr TMThomas Isaac, Minister of Finance viewing Yuko Mohri’s installation ‘Calls’ at KMB 2016 in Aspinwall House, Fort Kochi

“As an initial step, the government has cancelled the lease on a portion of Aspinwall House. Negotiations are ongoing to acquire the rest of the property in a time-bound manner by paying a reasonable amount,” Dr Isaac said, following a guided tour of KMB 2016’s primary venue, says a release.

“The Biennale will be maintained as a permanent art and culture asset for Kochi, which has become a fixture on the art map of the world. The city will join other big metropolises in housing an iconic international event. We can even utilise this space to conduct various art and cultural activities during non-Biennale years,” he added.

The minister undertook a day-long tour of KMB 2016 venues in Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, taking in the works on display and interacting with the Sunday crowds at Pepper House, Anand Warehouse and TKM Warehouse.

“When I first funded the Biennale six years ago as the Finance Minister of the previous LDF government, there was controversy about spending so much money on an art event rather than on art training schools. Today, there is near unanimity on the importance of the Biennale. It exposes Keralites to the best in contemporary art from around the world and it is good for Kerala’s artists as well. In its third edition, no opposing voices are being heard,” Dr Isaac said.

Noting that the Biennale had established itself as an important landmark in the socio-cultural map of Kerala, the Minister said, “Giving the public the opportunity to enjoy, firsthand, the artworks of internationally acclaimed artists and engage with them facilitates the creation of a cultural gathering of thinkers, writers, sculptors and artists. Art schools will benefit from this event, which strives to have greater linkages with art education in Kerala.”

“The government has allotted around Rs 60 crore for the promotional and marketing purpose of tourism in Kerala. Allotting Rs two crore for the Biennale in its off-year is likewise an investment to the upkeep of an established and important international event,” he added.

Dr Isaac, who also holds the Coir portfolio, expressed appreciation for KMB 2016 participating artist Praneet Soi’s work using the traditional fabric in his Cut-Out Archive – Sculptures in Coir. He tried his hand at Turkish artist Ahmet Öğüt’s installation Workers Taking Over The Factory – Version 2 and found Hungarian artist István Csákány’s Ghost Keeping “aesthetically pleasing”.

The Minister also praised the photography series Vanishing Life-Worlds on the ancient port town of Ponnani by artist K.R. Sunil.

“He has really captured Ponnani’s environment and atmosphere. I spent a few days walking through the living ruins of the once famous port. The decline and seeding of the place and yet still, the culture that still thrives there. In the last Budget, I have allocated funds to develop infrastructure in Ponnani for the conservation of the old town,” Dr Isaac said.

He noted the similarity in the setting of the Biennale. “It is very important we conserve the historical environment and inclusive spirit. While the Biennale is named after Kochi, it also refers to the cosmopolitan history of Muziris. The Biennale has spin-offs into the larger development process of Kerala,” Dr Isaac added.


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