‘Whorled Explorations’ – at Fort Kochi’s Biennale

What happens when an entire town goes to art?


Goats doing what goats do, become part of the art on the street walls. But first, fishermen walk the planks to sink the fishing nets while a motley group erupts in forced laughter. We watch as an Orange sun rises. And cats wait for fishermen who wait for the morning boat, all waiting next to a street cart vendor selling piping hot coffee and pazhamporis (banana fritters). The coffee doubles over and laughs at the likes served at Cafe Coffee Day. We wait, relishing the coffee and our pazhamporis, watching them wait. Soon our universe takes the shape of a pazhampori and we savour, every moment of it. She makes small talk with the vendor. Life is an installation, someone must have said. All you need is to take the time to look.

If you are thinking, what quasi-pseudo stuff !! then my guess is, you’ll barely survive Aspinwall House, the biennale’s biggest venue. Also because it has over 60 installations, featuring artists from around the world – video and sound installations and well, those that take empty space and transform it, like us with our pazhamporis and the cats, installed as a metaphor. Aspinwall House is also a sprawling old trading house from colonial times with beautiful trees and large empty spaces.

That’s just the beginning. You have art scattered across venues – mostly, old heritage buildings; along the walls on the streets, in the squares, on the beach front and even up the trees. Dot the venues and it will look like a very adventurous cat went for a stroll in the Fort Kochi neighbourhood. I went about on foot too.

Seen on one such walk

Fort Kochi by itself, is starkly beautiful with its old colonial and pre-colonial artefacts – trees older than the really old buildings and the Chinese fishing nets that were fixed there a really long, long time ago. Older than Gandhi’s spinning wheel by at least a couple of hundred years.

A whole lot of Anglicizing also meant that they have really good cakes & coffee and everything continental in addition to the fish and other delicacies of Kerala. Yet when I think lip-smacking, the ones that come to mind are the pazhamporis, prawn pollichathu, steamed idlis with a prawn stuffing (at Dosa and Pancakes). And the gelato, enjoyed all by its own, much later one evening (at Gelato)!

My friend, at one of the video installations, Aspinwall House

At David Hall
‘Everything will be alright’ – video
By Guido Van Der Werve
The artist walks towards the viewer, getting weary as time goes by, yet walking on, breaking ice with his feet on a frozen shore off Finland. A massive icebreaker behind him, doing the job mindlessly, with no hardship, making his attempt look futile. Foreboding. Yet full of spirit, and my most captivating memory from the biennale.

Everything will be alright

At Vasco Square
Balancing Act
By Gulammohammed Sheikh
At Pepper house
458 meters/sec
By Peter Rosel, Germany

An installation whose only point is to make you feel how gullible and helpless a traveller you are, trapped and hurtled around at breakneck speed. At Kochi, Earth’s velocity reaches supersonic speeds.

Spot that if you can, it says!

earthvelocity2 earthvelocity3 eartvelocity

At Pepper house
Liquid history of Vasco da Gama
By Sarnath Banerjee
A delightful little series in charcoal and pastels that tell, yes, the story of Vasco da Gama in a not very flattering manner!

vasco1 vasco3 vasco4

Guess who?
The recent spurt of Banksy like graffiti across Fort Kochi…

graffitijoker graffitiKFC graffitiMcD graffitimonalisa

Humid Fort Kochi also taught me not to get too engrossed composing and taking photographs. Else you’ll have to listen to something no one wants to hear from anybody – you have dirt on your er back.
um?? You must have sat somewhere, he added with a smile. I just grin and quickly dust off that lime wash off my er back!

And Goats can stare, unnervingly so!

At least, this is what I saw.

Goodbye for now, Fort Kochi.



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