By Anoop Kamath
The President of India PranabMukherjee inaugurated the Kochi Muziris Biennale Seminar on ‘Importance of Sustainable Cultural Building’ on March 2, 2017 in Kochi, Kerala. Speaking on the occasion, the President said that contemporary art is one of the most significant ways of expressing thoughts, emotions, concerns and ideas that are current and relevant to us in the time we live in. The fact that Kerala, the land of history and tradition, now hosts the largest show of contemporary art in the region, and that too a show that was seeded by Government, speaks of the unique ways of this State and its people.
Here is the complete text of President’s speech:
“I am happy to be in Kochi today at the latest edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
“The Biennale, which is today known as the People’s Biennale, has become an integral part of the cultural calendar of our country. It has rejuvenated Kerala’s longstanding contribution to visual arts and culture, and cemented Kochi’s status as a cosmopolitan city brimming with potential and ideas.
“Contemporary art is one of the most significant ways of expressing thoughts, emotions, concerns and ideas that are current, that are relevant to us in the time we live in. The fact that Kerala, this land of history and tradition, now hosts the largest show of contemporary art in the region, and that too a show that was seeded by government, speaks to the unique ways of this state and its people.
“Kerala has always been known for its secular approach towards art and culture. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is a proud symbol of this approach and the sense of oneness and inclusivity that exists here.
“The Kochi Biennale Foundation has made a wonderful innovation in attempting to use art to link the historic legacy of present-day Kochi with the rich cultural influences of its predecessor Muziris, a financial and trade centre that was believed to have been vanished in floods in 1314 A.D. The event's resounding success can be gauged from the fact that it has so far attracted more than a million visitors.
“The collaborative nature of the partnership between the government and the Kochi Biennale Foundation, and the very successful result of that partnership, is proof of what can be achieved when a government invests in culture. Public funding for the arts provides support, offers certainty and the opportunity to touch the lives of vast numbers of people.
“Public funds have the power to act as seed funding, giving others the confidence to invest in the creation and innovation of cultural organisations like the Kochi Biennale Foundation which, along with the Kerala government, is providing cultural stewardship and playing host to global artistic ideas on our own ground. When you partner that with innovative ideas and a unique point of view, the results can be staggering and beautiful.
“We need the arts. All over the world cultural activities are easy targets for spending cuts. But if the state is to act as the catalyst then what must be its role? What institutions must be built up, and what confidence measures should be taken? The Kochi Biennale Foundation is a good case study of what is possible when differing agencies come together to pursue profound goals: to value culture, and the achievements of the human spirit, to celebrate the human imagination, and to make those achievements key markers of development. But most important this model should be replicated in different parts of the country. “I hope the panelists can discuss and consider all these questions. I wish you all the very best and a meaningful discourse.And with these words, I declare this seminar open for discussion. I wish all of you the very best.”
After inaugurating the seminar at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard, the President received a guided tour of the primary venue, Aspinwall House, from KMB 2016 curator SudarshanShetty. Accompanying the President were Governor Justice P. Sathasivam, Kerala Chief Minister PinarayiVijayan, Kochi Corporation Mayor Smt. Soumini Jain and Kerala Tourism Minister KadakampallySurendran.
The President first visited the epic mural ‘12 stories (of the 12 Progeny)’ being worked on by participating artist P.K. Sadanandan. Taking an interest in the 15 metre long and three metre high wall painting, he listened attentively as the master muralist explained the back story behind each panel of the artwork as well as his exclusive use of natural colours.
After looking over the space for theatre practitioner’s AnamikaHaksar’s stage production ‘Composition on water’ and visiting artist Gauri Gill’s photo exhibition ‘Traces’, the President listened in silence as Shetty explained the intent behind Chilean poet-revolutionary RaúlZurita’s installation ‘Sea of Pain’.
The group, together with KMB co-founders Bose Krishnamachari and RiyasKomu, concluded the tour with a visit to American artist Camille Norment’s sound art installation ‘Prime’.