Photo Essays | Society | South Asia

What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

A taste of India’s Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

By BeJoy Sebastian Xavier for
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

1,000 ceramic sculptures titled “Metropolis” by Tanzanian artist, Lubna Chowdhary.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

The entrance to the colonial-style building Pepper House, one of the venues.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

The Art By Children workshop at Cabral Yard, another venue.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

An installation by Temsuyanger Longkumer, an Indian artist from Nagaland state, titled “God’s Summit.”

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

Indian film director Adoor Gopalakrishnan in front of Aspinwall House, the main venue.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

An installation titled “Maati Maa,” which depicts the relationship between man and nature as well as the precarious social condition of agricultural workers. “Maati Maa” is by Sambhavi, an Indian artist.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

A still from the screening of a film titled “Memorial Project Nha Trang, Vietnam: Towards the Complex – For the Courageous, the Curious, and the Cowards” on a representative shallow ocean floor. The film was made by a Japanese-Vietnamese artist, Jun Nguyen Hatsushiba, in 2001.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

Indonesian artist Heri Dono’s work, “The Journey of the Ships: Wrapped in Time.”

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

British artist Sue Williamson’s installation, “Messages from the Atlantic Passage,” which recasts bureaucratic records of the Atlantic slave trade.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

Bangladeshi artist Marzia Farhana’s installation titled “Ecocide and the Rise of Free Fall,” made with materials collected from areas affected from the 2018 floods in Kerala.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

A souvenir shop at the main venue, Aspinwall House.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

“Winter in Tembisa” by South African artist Santu Mofokeng (from his photo exhibition).

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

One of the sets of portraits titled collectively as “Sahodaran” by an Indian artist, Vipin Dhanurdharan from Kerala.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier
What’s Showing at Asia’s Biggest Contemporary Art Festival?

British artist Sue Williamson’s work, “One Hundred and Nineteen Deeds of Sale,” which depicts stains of slave trade while drawing similarities between the colonial histories of Kochi and Cape Town, where she lives and works.

Credit: BeJoy Sebastian Xavier

A festive mood has surrounded Kochi, a coastal city in the southern Indian state of Kerala, as it hosts the fourth edition of Asia’s biggest contemporary art festival, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale – a 108-day event held between December and March that attracts art lovers from across the world.

About 100 artists from over 36 countries are participating in the art show known for its photo exhibitions, film screenings, paintings, installations, art education programs, and workshops.  The exhibition is being held at nine venues, eight of which are centered around West Kochi and Mattancherry at the confluence of Arabian Sea with Lake Vembanad, the longest lake in India.

Inspired by renowned art festivals like the Venice Biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the first biennale of India, providing a platform to showcase new artistic practices of the subcontinent and the world. The Kochi Biennale Foundation has hosted the festival since 2012 with the support of the state government and a few businesses. The event seeks to become a center for artistic engagement in India by drawing from the rich tradition of public action and public engagement in Kerala.

The theme for the ongoing biennale is “Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life,” with Anita Dube, a contemporary artist, as its curator.