KOCHI, INDIA - Artist Jitish Kallat’s recent appointment as curator for the second iteration of the Kochi-Muzieis Biennale underlines the importance of the event to contemporary art in the subcontinent and beyond.
How did your appointment as curator for the second Kochi-Muziris Biennale come about?
When the members of the selection committee, which included several individuals I respect, called and urged me in one voice to take up the curatorship, my instinctive response was to accept the role, and I did so in an instant.
Artist Jitish Kallat, Director of the second iteration of the Kochi-Muzieis Biennale.
How influential was the first biennale in 2012 and why is it important for India to have a biennale?
As an artist initiated and artist run biennale Kochi-Muzuris Biennale is a key addition to the worldwide biennale-landscape as a whole. Its impact was historic in terms of audience levels and the questions it posed about the role of the state with regard to culture. The Kerala Government’s support for the project is an exemplary gesture for all other states in India. In the absence of a robust institutional infrastructure in India, the art scene is largely animated by the efforts of commercial galleries. As an entirely non-commercial art project, and due to its location away from the existing art centres of Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore etc., the biennale brings tremendous value to the art ecosystem of the subcontinent.
How different is it coming to a biennale as a curator rather than an artist?
As disciplines, curating art and making art are versions of the same intention: to get to some version of reality, either through the work you make as an artist or through the work of several artists when you curate. If in a studio you set afloat questions in solitude, here as a curator, you conduct the inquiries through an expanded format along with fellow practitioners, co-creating the project in dialogue. So to me it feels like I am simply shifting my toolbox for the moment.
While one can lament and condemn the dismal state of the institutions, museums and art-schools, I feel the art scene in India is growing every year with very slow and gradual developments taking place. In the past five years new private foundations and museums have opened, and the Kochi Muzuris Biennale and India Art Fair have created spaces of convergence in the northern and southern ends of the subcontinent. Artist initiatives like Khoj now have a full venue to showcase projects. Khoj began to forge connections with Dhaka, Kathmandu, Lahore, Karachi and Colombo fifteen years ago at an artist-to-artist level and so it is great to see event like the Dhaka Art Summit generating so much interest globally.
What other projects are you working on?
I just concluded a solo exhibition titled The Hour of the Day of the Month of the Season at both spaces of Galerie Daniel Templon in Paris. I have another ongoing solo at the San Jose Museum of Art titled Epilogue until April 2014 and a small two-artist show, Palindrome, with Gilbert & George at Arndt in Singapore. I’ve postponed my solo projects for 2014 and 2015 so that I can fully focus on Kochi but I’m working on a few contributions to institutional group shows in various places such as the National Museum of Art in Oslo and the Queens Museum in New York, and triennales such as Echigo-Tsumari in Japan.