March 21, 2017
 
Muziris Biennale

Dr. Venu , Principal Secretary, Kerala Tourism dubs Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) as a “stellar example” of public private partnership and the State Government apportioned budget of 7.5 crore to the contemporary art gala as “money well spent”.

One of the most primary programs organized by the non-profit trust 'Kochi Biennale Foundation' (KBF) is none other than the enthralling festival popularly called 'Kochi-Muziris Biennale'. This Foundation is significant because it endeavors to promote contemporary art infrastructure in India, and wants to open doors for Indians to take notice of and embrace various forms of art! The Trust is also involved in safekeeping monuments and other heritage properties, and tries its best to advertise traditional styles of culture and art. Famous artists Riyas Komu and Bose Krishnamachari founded KBF in 2010. The acclaimed British magazine 'ArtReview' in 2015 had ranked them among the top 100 most influential people in the contemporary art world, for their contribution towards art and also because of the success of the second edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale which they had pioneered!

Now, Kochi-Muziris Biennale is held at Kochi, in Kerala, and is a global carnival that exhibits contemporary art, something which was previously unknown to Indians. Thanks to the initiative taken by Komu, Bose and the Government of Kochi, India has witnessed a spectacular display of mind boggling art! In Kochi-Muziris Biennale one will find international and Indian artists exhibiting their talent in form of films, paintings, sculptures and more. Not only that, one can have access to various talks by eminent personalities, seminars, music, workshops, screening, and other educational exercises meant for students, when attending the Biennale. There's a lot to explore! U V Jose, the Director, Kerala Tourism has rightly said that this project would be a stepping stone for promoting Kerala Tourism.

The relevance of Kochi-Muziris Biennale in the Indian post demonetization scenario!
Despite the steady investments in the industry including the increase in the number of new properties, the pace of revenue growth from tourism had decelerated considerably in 2015 as compared to the previous four years mainly owing to the unpropitious excise policy. Total Revenue (including direct & indirect) from Tourism during the 2015 was Rs26689.63 Crores, showing an increase of 7.25% from the previous year’s figures as per statistics from the Kerala State Tourism Board. This growth rate is a decline from 7.6% in 2014 also marking a four year low. FTA to Kerala during the year 2015 is 977479 which showed an increase of 5.86% over the previous year’s figure of 923366.

With the numerous initiatives undertaken by the Kerala Tourism in 2016 including the Biennale, the industry was hopeful in expecting a significant growth of 8% in tourism arrivals when it had to deal with the unexpected demonetization. Consequently, the tourism sector had to face a hard blow post demonetization. However, industry experts are confident that Kochi-Muziris Biennale has helped in counterbalancing the ill-effects of the demonetization to a large extent although the official stats for 2016 are yet to be published. When people were facing serious cash crunches, money poured into the hands of the common man in Kerala thereby bolstering Kerala Tourism. According to them, this is by far the best investment that the State Government of Kerala has made. The economic and tourism opportunities of the city Kochi, and the state of Kerala has improved and is likely to improve in the coming months, owing to the Biennale. For the year 2017, the state is anticipating a double-digit growth in tourist arrivals.

The Kerala State Tourism Industry has benefited immensely from the art fest and has recorded a considerable increase both in domestic tourist arrivals as well as international tourist arrivals to Kerala in the first month of the Biennale. Subsequently, there has been an increase in Tourist Arrivals as well as an upsurge in hotel bookings. The event receives up to an astounding 20,000 footfalls a day and the organizers expect over an aggregate of a million visitors, both domestic and foreign, by the time the event the concludes in March. This tremendous increase in footfall of foreigners will revitalize the country’s tourism sector."When Kerala tourism had a crisis on its hands due to demonetization policy affecting tourist arrivals, biennale has singlehandedly created a unique economic zone that supported the tourism sector and brought money into the hands of the common man and the local community," said Dr. Venu V. "From the government's point of view, I can't think of a better investment” explains the Kerala Tourism Principal Secretary anticipating a bigger surge in tourist inflow in the coming months.

Former Minister for Culture Shri M.A. Baby acclaims that the Biennale has become a pilgrimage site for art lovers from around the globe only to be validated by Kerala Chief Minister Shri Pinarayi Vijayan, during the inauguration of KMB 2016; who affirms the socio-economic benefits of the Biennale with millions of cultural enthusiasts from all over the world, trotting to Kochi to witness and experience the spectacular Biennale. This ascertains that both the Central and State Tourism sectors will be benefitted by the Biennale and in turn will redress the ill-effects of demonetization.

More about the festival.
The Kochi-Muziris Biennale has created an uproar right from its inception, with visitors above 4 lakh in number in the first edition itself. The first two editions have earned a lot of accolades, and the third edition titled 'Forming in the pupil of an eye' is a 108 days' program where 97 artists from 31 countries are performing or showcasing their talent starting from 12th Dec, 2016 in 12 different venues in and around Kochi. This third edition only promises to be better, has a lot of new and attractive changes, and focuses to have a lot of 'human movement' involved! It will end on 29th March, 2016.

The art scenario in India has changed over the last decade, thanks to the exclusive attempt by the founders of the festival. Indian general public were not familiar with national exhibitions, let alone an International one! But this is what the founders have taken as a challenge, that is, to educate the Indian public about biennale. The Biennale is a perfect example of what wonders a public and private partnership can do! The common folk of Kerala are included and are actively involved with this festival.

Kolkata, Mumbai or Baroda and other Indian states have not been able to give the required platform to the skillful artists in the country to put their talent on display; however, Kerala is trying to change that scenario with the introduction of the Biennale in Kochi! The makers of the event believe, if the third edition of the international event pulls off well, the economic status of the region will improve, and will also create a mark in the international setting. Though the critics don't believe Kochi is the right place for such a global event, the founders felt Kochi should be the starting point!

The Kochi-Muziri Biennale has been inspired from the Venice Biennales, and believes the ideas and art shared in the exhibition will be able to influence the minds of Indians about accepted systems and traditions in the country. The event promotes free growth of ideas from people across the world. There are cases where visitors got 'inspired' to take part in the event. For example, 8 artists from Kannur who had come to visit the Biennale basically had etched a spectacular 3D painting on the ground at Fort Kochi within 24 hours! The Biennale summer camps are art and craft workshops led by eminent artists, who guide young kids aged between 8 and 14 to make clay models and paint excellently.

The Biennale in 2016 boasts of a lot of new things! For example, it has its signature 'white' paint that's customized and specially made by Asian Paints for the event, and is called 'Biennale white'. Ongoing drawing artworks and painting is also one of the main highlights in the third edition of the Biennale. You'll find artists like Sadanandan, Daniele Galliano and C Bhagyanath, add layers to their creative work (done on the previous day) regularly. This way you'll witness a new painting/sketch every time you visit. The technology used has been upgraded, for example, Tata-supported Video Labs has been launched. The KBF team has taken special effort to maintain good relations with people around the 12 venues in order to involve them, as well as to promote the event on a large scale.

End of the line...
The biennale has created a sense of fraternity, liberalism and freedom amongst individuals, groups and communities, and has also helped to build deep connections amidst them. Therefore, it is not just the good art and economic contribution that one should look at! The event evokes a sense of ownership in a person, and one just doesn't have any reason to miss it. Do visit it!

-ANJU ANNA ALEX

Image Credits: paandu raam via Flickr.com
Image Legal Code: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

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