February 15, 2017


By Sudarshan Shetty


As an old story goes, a young traveller went on a long journey to meet a Sage. Finally arriving at his destination, he enters a dark room to find the Sage deep in meditation. He goes and sits with the Sage, and for hours struggles to observe through the darkness, the room around him. 

Then, gathering the world into the pupil of her eye, the Sage looks up at the boy who notices her eyes glowing through the darkness of the room. Not only perceiving what is immediately around her — the room all in shadows — the Sage assimilates the entire universe. In that single moment and one vision, she grasps its enormous multiplicity — internal and external — and reflects those multiple images back onto the boy and back into the space between them both. Through the generation and layering of visions, the Sage creates multiple understandings of the world, speaking those to the young traveller in front of her. 

Just as the Sage assimilates images from a plethora of locations, so the Kochi-Muziris Biennale attempts to gather multiple positions. Selecting from and bringing together a multiplicity of disparate sources of material, the artists gather and layer all the complexity of the world into their representations of it. Forming in the pupil of an eye is an assembly and layering of multiple realities. It attempts to level difference between what is an assumed immediate experience — such as the physical space of the room between the boy and the Sage — with that of multiple other consciousnesses, of myriad parallel worlds, of manifold physical simulations, retold together within these pages and within the spaces of the Biennale. 

Just as the boy looked into the Sage’s eyes and wondered upon the impossibility and incompatibility of perception, the reality and unreality of what he and the Sage see. So too does Forming in the pupil of an eye study the intertwining of philosophical ideas within a physiological existence. While the Sage sees through time and space, the boy thinks of his eyes, the light passing through them, the images that he receives in the present, of objects already in the past. 

The eye is the only organ of the body that is reflective. Many ancient philosophical ideas originate from an understanding of our physiological beings and from within our corporeal existence. Light rays enter the eye and are returned in the direction from which they came. The Sage sits in front of the boy, her eyes glowing, reflecting the illuminations of the world. Reflecting back into the world, as much as it takes in, the eye is a mirror for the world. Forming in the pupil of an eye is not an image of one reality but a reflection of multiple realities and of multiple possibilities in time. It does not question notions of reality, but instead layers many. As its own process, Forming in the pupil of an eye comes from that junction of the physiological with the conceptual. It is an acknowledgement that there is something essential in the way we look at the world, that it is multiple in nature. Forming in the pupil of an eye brings that multiplicity of experience together within the space of Kochi-Muziris Biennale and perhaps to spill over into the world at large.

And just as the boy did, Forming in the pupil of an eye ponders the illusion and reality of vision. It asks the Sage how it too can see this way and understand this knowledge, ‘Teach me how to look at the world through this multiplicity. How can I see this room, within the context of the universe as you do? How can I see through these shadows and reflections?’


Note: This curator’s note for Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 is published courtesy Kochi-Muziris Biennale Foundation.