We Are The World

We Are The World

Abhay Sardesai visits the fourth Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

We are the world

Arunkumar HG. Con-struction I, Con-struction II.  Sculptures. Repurposed wood, aluminium, concrete. 2015-18. Installed at Aspinwall House. 2018-19. All images courtesy of the Kochi Biennale Foundation.

A procession of swaying silhouettes makes its way across eight large screens bringing alive the circus of life – awkwardly prancing skeletons, religious demagogues, exhorting tyrants and burdened slaves file onward, lugging cut-outs of chattels, plants, patients, IV drips and animals. Drawing from the solemn energies of a funeral cortege and summoning the incantatory enthusiasm of a ritual parade, the advancing column feels achingly human, shamanic and spectral at the same time. Against the spirited score by a brass band, this work by the South African artist William Kentridge grows, as you watch with mounting thrill, into a metaphor for the messy but mesmerizing march of democracy. In its on-and-on-ness, the expedition loaded with omens and signs is corrupted into a journey without a destination.

The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, curated by artist Anita Dube, from the 12th of December to the 29th of March, is premised on exploring the affirmative possibilities of community life, calling out hegemonies and hierarchies and the exploitative enthusiasms they harbour. Headed as we are towards one of India’s most decisive elections, one that will determine the turn the nation as a secular unit will take, the show assumes significance as it installs acts of resistance and enquiry against deceitful, mercenary and hyper-muscular institutional presences to frame a discussion around justice and empowerment. The most ideologically self-reflexive of the four editions of the Biennale, it is also the finest.