Kochi-Muziris Biennale, (People’s Biennale) India

Kochi-Muziris Biennale, often referred to as the people’s Biennale, has been making waves in the global contemporary art world since its inception in 2012. Held in Kochi, a city located in the southern Indian state of Kerala, it’s the largest international contemporary art exhibition in India and the first of its kind in Asia.

Influenced by the historical cosmopolitan legacy of Kochi and the mythical ancient port of Muziris, the Biennale seeks to invoke the spirit of free inquiry, fostering dialogues and interactions between artists, curators, and the public. It is organized by the Kochi Biennale Foundation, a non-profit charitable trust engaged in promoting art, culture, and educational activities in India.

At the heart of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is an emphasis on ‘site-responsive’ art. The Biennale’s curators and artists do not shy away from confronting the city’s complex colonial past, creating art pieces that respond to the city’s layered histories, drawing connections between the local and the global. As a result, you’ll see art that’s inextricably linked with Kochi’s diverse architectural and historical contexts.

The artworks on display span a wide variety of mediums, including installation, painting, sculpture, interactive media, film, and performance art. One of the unique aspects of the Biennale is its utilization of unconventional exhibition spaces. You’ll find artwork in repurposed buildings, warehouses, heritage homes, and public spaces, thus blurring the boundaries between the city and the art.

Artists from all over the world are invited to participate, providing an exciting mix of renowned and emerging artists. Each edition is curated by a different leading contemporary artist or curator, ensuring a diverse range of themes and perspectives. Past curators include leading Indian artists like Sudarshan Shetty, Anita Dube, and Jitish Kallat.

A crucial part of the Biennale is the Students’ Biennale, which showcases the work of art students from across the country. The initiative seeks to introduce students to contemporary art practices and gives them a platform to exhibit their work on an international stage.

How to get there:

International attendees usually arrive at Cochin International Airport, which is well-connected with major cities worldwide. It’s the nearest airport to Kochi, approximately 28 kilometers away.

By Air: Cochin International Airport serves several domestic and international flights. From the airport, one can hire a pre-paid taxi or use app-based cab services like Uber and Ola to reach Kochi city or the Biennale venues.

By Rail: If you’re already in India, the Indian Railways network connects Kochi to other major cities in the country. There are two main railway stations in Kochi – Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town. Both are well connected to the city by bus and taxi services.

By Road: Kochi is well connected by a network of national and state highways. Buses operated by the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) connect Kochi with other cities in Kerala and neighboring states. Private bus operators offer services as well.

Within Kochi, getting around is easy with a variety of options available. Auto-rickshaws, taxis, and app-based cab services are commonly used for point-to-point travel. For a more localized experience, you can also use the local ferry service to navigate through the city’s network of backwaters.

Also, it’s important to remember that the Biennale venues are spread across various locations in and around Fort Kochi and Ernakulam. Maps and guides are available at the Biennale’s main venue, Aspinwall House, and on the Biennale’s official website to help visitors navigate there.