Kochi has been our injection of art and creativity that we didn’t even know we needed. Amazingly the only Biennale ever to be successfully held in India was on for the second time while we were in the city. Apparently the locals aren’t too fussed about it and most of them don’t go – it’s mainly for the foreign and domestic tourists . However the city has an instant creative feel compared to other places, with imaginative and graphic graffiti that was reminiscent of our trip to Miami. Not what we were expecting at all and a very welcome surprise.
We fell into a few exhibitions while seeing other touristy things, it’s hard not to really as there are so many tiny venues participating around the city. The smaller places were very eclectic, ranging from paintings by a child who had died aged 7 having completed 25,000 pieces of work to the complete history of India’s maps or even mystical fantasy (which turned out to be what we would call graphic abstract art). These were great and definitely made us want to buy tickets for the main parts of the exhibitions.
The ticket to get into the 6 big venues cost 100Rs (£1) and we spent a full, incredibly hot, day going to as many of them as we could. It was a pretty impressive set up, with a huge number of exhibitors and so many installations, it must have been a huge job for the curators. The biggest collection was in Aspinwall house, a beautiful traditional crumbling building with heaps of atmosphere which was an incredible setting for the modern conceptional art which was very tastefully lit too.
By far the most impressive was Anish Kapoor’s simple and captivating installation. It was literally a cylindrical hole in the ground (apparently 12 feet deep and an original part of the building) with a fast vortex of water in it, creating a whirlpool with a huge hole in the middle. The water was so dark it almost looked like tar and the way the light hit it created patterns that resembled stars in the solar system. It’s so impressive how he utilised the space he was given in a different way to all the other artists.
By far the most underwhelming was Yoko Ono, as Pete predicted, which was literally a postcard to pick up and take away instructing you to be more aware of your surroundings. Nice message, pretentious outcome! It was really disappointing set amongst the vast display of challenging art installations.
Otherwise, Kochi was a nice place… Slightly touristy and quite multicultural with beautiful Dutch and Portuguese colonial buildings. We visited Jew Town, where Pete fitted right in, and the beautiful old synagogue there, built in 1568 and embellished with some lovely Belgian chandeliers and Chinese floor tiles. The culinary highlight was coriander fish cooked in banana leaves at Fusion Bay restaurant which was incredible.