With reports of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale winding up by mid-January owing to inadequate funds doing the rounds, the anti-biennale activists have pointed out that this is just another tactic aimed at seeking government funding for the event.
The detractors of the event have said that the dearth of funds, as cited by the biennale organisers, could not be farther from the truth. “Not only have they got sufficient funds but they have already brought many European sponsors under the ambit of the event, to sponsor the programmes,” said Unnikrishnan, an artist from the Biennale Viruddha Samskarika Samithi. He added that the move was in view of the unconfirmed reports about a legal advice directing the government not to allot more funds for the conduct of the biennale.
Meanwhile, Union Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution K V Thomas has said that though the government wanted to support the biennale, the Vigilance probe and vehement protests from other artists have been preventing it from extending financial assistance to the the event. “The Kochi-Muziris Biennale has definitely garnered international recognition. The Chief Minister is aware of the present scenario. But due to the furore surrounding the whole event, the government is in a dilemma,” he said.
Unnikrishnan alleged that most of the activities of the biennale are not based in Fort Kochi but in Mumbai, and the focus is not on the cultural element but on plain luxury. “The thrust on the cultural element is sorely missing in the biennale. The whole thing has been carried out as if they are organising a tourism fest,” they said.
The Biennale Viruddha Samskarika Samithi activists pointed out that right from the inception of the event, it has been marred by controversies. “At the outset, it was started as a Kochi Biennale foundation. But when they realised that they could not draw funds from the Muziris heritage project with overtly associating with it, they joined hands with it, and barely 15 days ahead of the inauguration, a trust came into existence out of the blue,” said P K Vijayan, another artist-activist of the samithi.
He further alleged that there was hardly any promotion of artists under the ambit of the Biennale Foundation, which was simply a coterie of retired government officials and others not at all associated with arts.
However, Bose Krishnamachari, president, Kochi Biennale Foundation, has vehemently refuted the allegations. He said that though the event was going through a rough phase, there were no plans of quitting. “A meeting of the foundation discussed the paucity of funds. Though some members suggested early conclusion of the event as a solution, no decision was taken in the matter,” he said.