Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale – 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告

‘The internet is overrated, give us back telepathy!’ exclaims a work from Sorry for Real (2015) by video artist Tabita Rezaire. Five large light boxes stand one after the other at Aspinwall House, main venue of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) 2018. In one, a smartphone is shot in to the scene by a lightning bolt (and a floating message bubble reads, ‘People will f*** u up, then claim to be ur saviour! LOL’). In another, a diamanté-encrusted fingernail hovers over the phone’s answer button, reluctant to pick up a call from the ‘Western World’ (‘No White Tears! Not Today!’).

Like Rezaire, Anita Dube, curator of this fourth edition of the KMB, is suspicious of the internet. She writes in her curatorial statement, ‘virtual hyper connectivity has paradoxically alienated us from the warm solidarities of community’. She would instead like to envision a space ‘where pleasure and pedagogy could sit together and share a drink’. She draws from Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1967) to phrase her title: ‘Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life’. Dube seems to ask us to hold back the paranoid readings: can we come from a place of empathy and sustained conversation, rather than immediately reach for the critique? 

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Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告

Aryakrishnan, 2018, installation view, Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Courtesy: Kochi Biennale Foundation

The central protagonist of Dube’s KMB is ‘The Pavilion’, designed by New Delhi-based Anagram Architects, a circular structure made up of polycarbonate and cement board. Transparent walls on one side; a white cube at the other. Dube imagines this to be a space for spontaneous conversation and curation that does not cater to the ‘art-world one percent’ but to those that have been marginalized by institutional art culture. Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn is scheduled to take over the space for the last 30 days of the biennale’s run, with a live workshop/performance titled Energy: Yes! Quality: No!

The Guerilla Girls gave a lecture at The Pavilion two days after the biennale opened, presenting, among other things, how they have previously made work related to specific geographical and cultural contexts for which it is shown. However, although the group made new work for KMB, nearly all of their poster and film output still refers to wage gaps and the lack of diversity in the US museum system, with no gesture towards the disparities closer to home in Kerala, India or South Asia. After their performance, a group of artists, writers and curators from South Asia took the mike to read out a statement that they had collectively written during a spontaneous meeting the night before. The meeting was not held at a biennale venue but in Vasco de Gama Square, a popular space for congregation in Fort Kochi; I myself was a participant. The statement asked for transparency in the KMB’s investigation of co-founder Riyas Komu, who stepped down from his position last month after several allegations of sexual harassment were made public by an anonymous Instagram account and taken up by the press (as I reported for frieze in November). Many in the audience stood up in support of this moment of protest. Dube, in a quick comment at the end of the session, attributed the intervention to the ‘insurrectionist spirit’ of the Guerilla Girls: an instructive indication of the ways in which art spaces, in spite of their best intentions, often fail to escape their own institutionalization.  

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Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告

Guerrilla Girls lecture, 2018, installation view, Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Courtesy: Kochi Biennale Foundation

Elsewhere, other works suffered from a lack of attentiveness to local context. Several collages by American artist Martha Rosler – a 2008 edition of ‘House Beautiful: Bringing the War Home’, a series Rosler first began in the 1960s – have been installed along a set of long interlocking corridors at Aspinwall house. Pin-up ready housewives tidy their plush homes as scenes of militarized warfare rage outside their windows. The works sit strangely out-of-date and out-of-place at a time when our definitions of warfare have fundamentally changed, as they primarily refer to the US invasions of Iraq and Vietnam.

The Otolith Group’s film O Horizon(2018), also on show at Aspinwall House, takes us through slow panning shots of Tagore’s West Bengal art school Santiniketan. We see scenes of a twilit pastoralism intermixed with Bihu dancing; a K.G Subramanyan wall mural of flowers, fish, leaves and hybrid animals; and a circle of khadi-clad, indigo-wearing academics in deep conversation about the cosmos. It is difficult, however, to lean into the poetics of the film. It is hard to imagine a countryside scene without speculating on the Air Quality Index of its location (South Asia has some of the most polluted cities in the world). ‘The Alienated Life’ no longer has access to this kind of pastoral aspiration. At MAP project space, a two-channel film work Communitas (2010), by Dutch artist Aernout Mik, shows a fictional meeting in the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw. It is unclear what the proceedings are about but, as people gather around a velvet-clad table, the speaker struggles to keep them focused. There is no sound in the work, but you can almost hear the flies buzzing. This feels more like it: resistance as something tinged by bureaucracy. 

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Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告

Nathan Coley, 2018, installation view, Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Courtesy: Kochi Biennale Foundation

‘If culture wants to imagine itself at the frontlines of resistance […] it must critique itself to stay relevant,’ Dube noted during a talk entitled ‘Deconstructing the Curatorial Note’ on the second day of the biennale’s opening week. Dube uses the spirit of inclusion to make the critique, and there are far more Dalit artists, Tribal artists and, of course, women artists in this edition of the KMB than ever before. Dube herself is the first queer and first female curator of the KMB. This biennale often operates between two extremes: the tender and the furious. The tender moments hinge on the friendships and relationship between queer people: in a long room at Aspinwall house, Lebanese artist Akram Zataari presents the film Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright (2010), in which a gay couple share small love letters over a typewriter, alongside 48 found photographs from the Photo Studio Scherezade in Saida, Lebanon. Dated from the 1960s and ’70s, portraits of heteronormative couples are interspersed by the chance occurrence of a lesbian couple in a tight embrace or a gay couple posing with camp bravado. In Sweet Maria Monument (2018) Kochi-based artist Aryakrishnan creates a memorial to his friend Maria, a transgender woman who was instrumental to the LGBTQ+ activist scene in Kerala until her brutal murder. Aryakrishnan arranges a small room at Aspinwall House with paintings of Maria and books on gender and sexuality. A particularly furious moment comes from Dalit artist Prabhakar Pachpute’s large wall mural at Anand Warehouse, dedicated to the many farmers’s protests that have erupted across India in the past year. Titled Resilient Bodies in an Era of Resistance (2018), Pachpute layers the space with sculpture, charcoal drawings and plywood cutouts. 

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Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告

Heri Dono, 2018, installation view, Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Courtesy: Kochi Biennale Foundation

The biennale could do with more of these moments. In a curation that is dense with film and photography work, what is missing in the response to contemporary experiences of alienation is a certain camp or queerness. One of the most striking works in this regard is the street-side display of large wheat-paste portraits by South African photographer Zanele Muholi, which line the exterior walls of Cabral Yard. Muholi’s work is an investigation into the production and performance of dandy aesthetics (she refers to the people she photographs as ‘participants’ alluding to the performative nature of the images), and this lends itself nicely to a critique of Dube’s Debordian sentiment: we are no longer just passive spectators of the society of spectacle, but participants, actively engaged in the production, dissemination and performance of our identities and desires.

Zanele Muholi, 2018, installation view, Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Courtesy: Kochi Biennale Foundation

Skye Arundhati Thomas

Skye Arundhati Thomas is a writer based in Mumbai. She is a contributing editor at The White Review.

Opinion /

Kochi-Muziris Biennale
Guerrilla Girls
Tabita Rezaire
Zanele Muholi
Skye Arundhati Thomas


互联网被高估了,让我们回心转意!视频艺术家塔比塔·雷扎尔(Ta.Rezaire)的《对不起现实》(2015)中的一幅作品惊叹道。五个大灯箱一个接一个地矗立在高知木兹里斯双年展(KMB)2018年的主会场阿斯宾沃尔大厦。其中一部,智能手机被闪电击中到现场(一个浮动信息泡沫写道,‘人们会跳起来,然后宣称是你的救星!’LOL’)。在另一个例子中,一个镶有钻石的手指甲在电话的应答按钮上盘旋,不愿接听来自“西方世界”的电话(“没有白眼泪!今天不行!''。和雷扎尔一样,第四版KMB的馆长安妮塔·杜贝也对互联网持怀疑态度。她在她的策展声明中写道,“虚拟的超级连通性使我们与社区的热情团结背道而驰。”她想设想一个空间“在那里,快乐和教育学可以坐在一起分享饮料”。她引用盖伊·德博德的《奇观协会》(1967)中的名词:“非异化生活的可能性”。杜布似乎要求我们抑制这种偏执的阅读:我们能够从一个充满同情心和持续对话的地方走出来,而不是立即接受批评吗?jpg Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告 Aryakrishnan,2018,安装视图,Kochi-Muziris双年展。礼貌:高知双年展基金会是Dube KMB的中心主角,是“新德里馆”设计的“亭子”,是由聚碳酸酯和水泥板组成的圆形结构。一面是透明的墙;另一面是白色的立方体。杜布设想这是一个自发的对话和策展的空间,它不迎合“艺术世界百分之一”,而是迎合那些已经被制度化的艺术文化边缘化的人。瑞士艺术家托马斯·赫尔希霍恩预定在双年展的最后30天里接管这个空间,举办一个名为“能量:是的!质量:不!在两年展开幕两天后,游击女郎们在“亭”上作了一次演讲,除其他事项外,还介绍了她们以前是如何根据所展示的特定地理和文化背景进行工作的。然而,尽管该小组为KMB做了新的工作,但他们几乎所有的海报和电影作品仍然涉及工资差距以及美国博物馆系统缺乏多样性,而没有对喀拉拉、印度或南亚离家更近的差距做出任何姿态。演出结束后,一群来自南亚的艺术家、作家和策展人拿着麦克风宣读了一份声明,声明是他们在前一天晚上自发的会议上集体撰写的。会议不是在两年一度的场地举行,而是在高池堡一个受欢迎的聚会场所——瓦斯科·德·伽马广场举行;我自己也是参与者。声明要求KMB对联合创始人小木敬二的调查具有透明度,小木敬二上个月在一份匿名Instagram账户公开了几项性骚扰指控,并被新闻界报道后,辞职。许多听众站起来支持这一抗议时刻。杜布在会议结束时发表了一篇简短的评论,将此次干预归咎于游击女郎的“反叛精神”:一个具有启发性的指示,表明艺术空间尽管有着良好的意图,却常常无法逃脱自身的制度化。sswn4095.jpg Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告游击女童讲座,2018,安装图,Kochi-Muziris双年展。礼貌:高知双年展基金会在其他地方,其他作品遭受缺乏对当地环境的关注。美国艺术家玛莎·罗丝勒(Martha Rosler)的几张拼贴画——2008年版的《美丽的房子:把战争带回家》——罗丝勒系列作品始于上世纪60年代——已经沿着阿斯宾沃尔(Aspin.)住宅的一组长长的联锁走廊安装。当军事化战争的场景在他们的窗外肆虐时,准备就绪的家庭主妇们整理他们的豪华房子。在我们对战争的定义发生了根本性变化的时候,这些作品显得格外过时和不合时宜,因为它们主要指的是美国对伊拉克和越南的入侵。奥托利斯集团的电影《O地平线》(2018)也在阿斯宾沃尔大厦上映,它带我们通过泰戈尔的西孟加拉艺术学校Santiniketan的慢镜头。我们看到了一幅混合着比胡舞的朦胧牧歌的场景;一幅K.G Subramanyan墙上的花、鱼、树叶和杂种动物的壁画;一群穿着靛蓝、穿着卡迪服的学者正在深入讨论宇宙。然而,要深入研究电影的诗意是很困难的。很难想象一个乡村景象不去猜测它的地理位置空气质量指数(南亚有一些世界上最污染的城市)。“异化生活”不再有这种田园的愿望。在MAP项目空间,由荷兰艺术家Aernout Mik创作的双通道电影作品《Communitas(2010)》展示了在华沙文化和科学宫举行的虚构会议。目前尚不清楚诉讼程序是关于什么的,但当人们围坐在一张天鹅绒桌旁时,演讲者努力让他们集中注意力。工作中没有声音,但是你几乎能听到苍蝇的嗡嗡声。这感觉更像是:抵抗,就像某种被官僚主义沾染了的东西。《内森·科利》,2018,安装图,Kochi-Muziris双年展。礼貌:高知双年展基金会“如果文化想要把自己想象在阻力的前线……”它必须批判自己以保持联系,”杜贝在双年展开幕周第二天的一篇题为“解构策展笔记”的演讲中说。杜布用包容的精神进行批判,在这个版本的KMB中,贱民艺术家、部落艺术家,当然还有女性艺术家比以往任何时候都要多得多。杜布本人是第一位同性恋者,也是第一位KMB的女馆长。这个双年展经常在两个极端之间运作:温柔和愤怒。温柔的时刻取决于同性恋者之间的友谊和关系:在阿斯宾沃尔的一间长屋里,黎巴嫩艺术家Akram Zataari展示了电影《明天一切都会好起来的》(2010年),其中一对同性恋者通过打字机分享小情书,还有48张从赛义德的Scherezade摄影工作室找到的照片。A,黎巴嫩。上世纪六七十年代,女同性恋者紧紧拥抱,男同性恋者虚张声势摆出露营姿态,这些异端婚姻的画像随处可见。在“甜蜜玛丽亚纪念碑”(2018)中,高知艺术家Aryakrishnan为他的朋友Maria建立了一个纪念碑,Maria是一个变性妇女,她在喀拉拉邦LGBTQ+活动分子现场发挥了重要作用,直到她被残酷谋杀。Aryakrishnan在阿斯宾沃尔(Aspinwall House)安排了一个小房间,里面有玛丽亚的绘画和性别书籍。贱民艺术家Prabhakar Pachpute在阿南德仓库(Anand Warehouse)的大型壁画展现了一个特别愤怒的时刻,该壁画致力于过去一年在印度各地爆发的许多农民的抗议活动。名为“抵抗时代的弹性体”(2018),Pachpute用雕塑、木炭图和胶合板剪裁将空间分层。_rsh8687_f.jpg Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life: A Report from the Fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale - 非异化生活的可能性:来自第四届Kochi-Muziris双年展的报告 Heri Dono,2018,安装图,Kochi-Muziris Biennale。礼貌:高知双年展基金会双年展可以与更多的这些时刻。在胶片和摄影作品密集的策展中,对当代异化经历的回应中缺少的是某种营地或奇特。这方面最引人注目的作品之一是南非摄影师Zanele Muholi在街头展示的大幅麦酱肖像,这些肖像排列在Cabral Yard的外墙上。穆荷里的作品是对花花公子美学的产生和表现的调查(她指她所拍摄的人们是暗示图像表演性质的“参与者”),这恰恰是对杜比的“德伯利亚情调”的批判:我们不再只是观众社会的被动观众。而是参与者,积极参与制作、传播和表现我们的身份和愿望。Zanele Muholi,2018,安装视图,Kochi-Muziris双年展。礼貌:高知双年展基金会SKY-AundHaTi托马斯SkyArdHaTi托马斯是一个作家在孟买。她是《白色评论》的主编。高知-穆齐里斯游击女队双年展


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