Epilogue

Braided streams,

Carving fissures on rocks,

Shifting recklessly

to an endless surf,

Retreating into smoke on sand,

and uniting, finally,

In a dreamy surreal mist.

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Postcards and pasts

I love postcards and photographs, they’re my earliest memories of dad, and his very existence. I can vividly recollect myself as a toddler crawling all around home repeatedly in search of him, peeking behind doors and through windows, lingering around the room and balconies, hoping to spot him somewhere around. And the sudden trembles of anxiety that consumed me completely from the sight of an aeroplane flying past the blue sky above, Amma had said that an aeroplane would bring him back here, although it only seemed to be lost gliding into suffocating clouds every time. And she teaching me numbers, while I attempted counting the number of days he would take to be back from a feeble wall calendar hanging beside the sewing machine. Between these were those joyous days of receiving picture postcards and letters from Gottingën, the quaint distant land that became his second home, and these were all I knew of him then. He took delight in shooting on film too, and frozen moments of life in the countryside, seasonal blossoms, adorable dogs and cats and whimsical streetsides joined the blaze of postcards on my living room wall in a quiet struggle of holding themselves glued as layers of pictures continued to get added, with most including a little drawing of birds or trees he made for me along with a ‘See you soon!’ written at the bottom. How soon – was my forever question. The kids in my neighbourhood old enough to go to school cheerily waved to us while amma carried me around our balcony to feed tiny little sparrows she fed religiously every morning, and all these kids seemed to have a dad who emerged right from their homes to drop them off in the often grudgingly working Bajaj Chetaks or TVS Lunas. I missed him. The shaky ‘trings’ accompanying the rattling cycle of the postman at intervals were my most awaited divine interventions, arriving on the lucky days with these pieces of parchment that were timely assurances of my dad being around somewhere and remembering us between his busy overworked days. And that meant the world to me.

Barriers that embrace: from Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016-17

Musings from my first Kochi Biennale wanderings.

Something as simple as the slow splash of waves against your ferry can meander off into an absent-minded gleeful smile when you are taking in the experience as an outsider, unlike the routine commuters – more familiar, more purposeful. But its when you step out at Fort Kochi that you’ll be surprised how easily you slip into feeling at home.

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Kochi beckons not only artists, writers, connoiseurs, students, tourists and thousands of visitors with open arms during the biennale season, but also fresh ideas that adorn her alongside the wall art from previous years that are lovingly treasures. She flanks you with colourful surprises throughout her humble streets and before you know it she has left you busy absorbing lines, forms and colours, an act of immersing you into art long before you arrive at a venue housing an exhibit. So, the more you trudge past the tree-sheltered boulevards abuzz with charming little cafes, shops, carts, hawkers, pazham pori, birds, goats and cattle; the more she lets you encounter new visuals and , perhaps, have you mentally reorder your list of favourite works all over again, tugging you to experience beyond the prevailing humidity. For the art here feels so raw, and real, unlike my fake silk scarf tied to my bag.

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You will then spot the ubiquitous RGB shades, typeforms made of strokes, and (as our auto driver described it) the windmill-ish icon: the official visual identity of the event, where spaces in Kochi welcome you to the venues you originally intended to begin your art encounters at. You will also find mildly faded hues on some wall sections with peeling paint patches from the previous few events – and between these avatars of fresh and faded visual identity lie visual and textual content to be dissected. (Anyone else who’s a fan of the old-school handpainted type? Surely lots more to love about Kochi with this edition!) What is incredible is this entire mix of elements from the event’s identity coupled with visuals and text forming a strikingly distinct and cohesive visual identity in itself, and seems to function like a lot like a compass at a certain level by letting you navigate into the heart of the place based on how densely populated the bylanes are with them.

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But there is more to the visuals that the walls of Kochi envelopes you with, both at exhibit venues and the surrounding hotels, restaurants and other spaces, beautifully overlapping with the hustling bustling daily life. Which is how she invites to you experiment with how you can document wall art, standing as testimony to the indefinite temporary presence of parked vehicles to people to cattle and birds. So, with the range of photographs that attempt to document the same can often accomplish more than just that – you can always, perhaps, spot the same piece of wall art, but never the same photograph. Can this also serve as a distinct visual identity throughout Fort Kochi, that outlives both the timeframe and the context of the biennale; merging into the thriving life and vigour her streets are alive with? For she has metamorphosed herself into an experience for you so selflessly, while she transcends containing art. You feel, she becomes.