Children’s curiosity churns funny anecdotes for art mediators at biennale

Kochi, Feb 2: Stepping into a large space lined up with various types of art can be overwhelming for any kid: a suggested itinerary along unfamiliar names whose theme may not seem relatable to the visuals at first glance. That’s how children end up asking all sorts of questions, many of which have become interesting anecdotes for the art mediators at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

Students from schools come in groups with a mood that is playful but they nonetheless get fascinated by certain artworks at the ongoing festival. Their out-of-the-box enquiries pose fun-filled challenge for the art mediators, who have basically been tasked with explaining to the little visitors about the installations, paintings and sculptures in ways that can make the trip memorable.

There are walks twice a day at the main Aspinwall House of the 108-day biennale that is on till March 29. These are specially designed keeping in mind a match between the age group of the children and the subject matter of the exhibits.

“When we are assigned a tour with schoolkids, we generally ensure they are taken to the interactive spaces where the works become easily relatable,” states Krishna Priya, an art mediator. Out in the open, children “really enjoy” painting free-spirited at Song Dong’s ‘Water Temple’ installation. “It’s tough to get the kids out of the place,” she says. “After all, you need to also go by a certain time schedule.”

Robin Thomas, another art mediator with the Kochi Biennale Foundation, agrees, but points at another artwork he gets ‘stuck’ often. “Getting the children out of Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba’s space is really a task for us,” he points out. That is where people have to walk in the water to see the video installation created by the Japanese artist.

Shwetha Kadiyala notes that there are certain works the children instantly sense the theme. Bangladeshi artist Marzia Farhana’s ‘Ecocide and the Rise of Free Fall’ is one such. “The minute they enter the space, they understand that the work is about floods and its aftermath,” notes Shwetha, recalling that Kerala witnessed its worst floods in a century during the monsoons in August last year. Marzia’s work shows the impact of the deluge with household materials damaged beyond repair.

Then there is a giant rubber tyre, suspended, that is another installation — particularly fascinating for the children. EB Itso’s ‘Mr Sun (Slow Violence)’ impresses them initially with its size, but “when the work is explained the conversations become very matured”, notes Robin. “They talk about how rapid urbanisation is impacting the environment and how we need to curb global warming.”

Shwetha chips in to share the questions the children pose on Sonia Khurana’s installation. The artist has placed transparent cut-outs of her body-type, questioning body-shaming. For all the sober theme, the kids generally react, asking ‘Why is a fat person’s body frame kept here?’,” points out Shwetha.

The children find Shilpa Gupta’s work on 100 jailed poets “a little spooky”, says Krishna Priya. “Since the setting is very dark, they always think it is something on ghosts and supernatural elements,” she adds.

Other work that occupies a somewhat dark place is B V Suresh’s ‘Cane of Wrath’, recreating the confounding and absurd theatre of contemporary politics unfolding in the ruins of post-colonial dreams of nationhood. “The kids understand that the work critics and questions various aspects of Indian politics. Then they break into animated debates,” notes Shweta. Adds Robin: “Some of them have strong opinions about the political state of the country. I remember a group of eighth graders, after looking at the work, discussing the importance of ‘freedom of speech’.”


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“The fourth edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale runs from 12 December, 2018 – 29 March, 2019.“
Venues are open every day from 10 AM – 6 PM.
Tickets are available for purchase for ₹100 at Aspinwall House.

Universal free entry every Monday.


By Air: Fort Kochi is 45 km from Kochi International Airport, Nedumbassery.
By Train: Fort Kochi is 13 km from Ernakulam Junction (South) Station and 16 km from Ernakulam Town (North) Station.
By Boat: Fort Kochi is 20 mins from the Ernakulam Boat Jetty and 10 mins from both Willingdon Island and Vypin Boat Jetty.
By Bus: Fort Kochi is 15 km from the main bus station in Ernakulam.

Many of the locations of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale are walking distances from each other (most are around 10 minutes or so).


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