Defining His Art
When the next edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale unfurls in 2016, the mega event will have a new artistic director, a new vision that will infuse a wider and global dimension to art. Mangalore-born and Mumbai-based Sudarshan Shetty, the curator of the next Biennale, is geared up for the ‘monumental challenge’.
As he huddles in the bustling library of the Biennale office at Pepper House, Shetty confesses that he had no idea he would be chosen for the task but doesn’t hide his excitement at the great stride he would have to take.
“It is a daunting responsibility. To match up to the reputation of the last two editions is a huge responsibility. Not only is it a challenge, but on the personal front, it is a great opportunity to extend my practice too,” says Shetty while commenting on the exceptional work Jitish Kallat did in the last Biennale.
Shetty, who will jet between Mumbai and Kochi, says, though the fact and his responsibility has sunk in, he is yet to get started. Numerous tasks like logistics, funding, meetings, discussions with the core team and zeroing in on the right spots are on. “I’m just getting to know Kochi better. There cannot be a better place than Kochi for conducting a Biennale. The fantastic history and the people here makes it a right spot,” says Shetty.
“I am soaking in the spaces, taking long walks, finding the perfect ambience for each work. I’m in the process of figuring it out,” he adds.
While he expresses amazement at how the first Biennale, curated by Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu, held a palpable connect with the local people, he strives to achieve the same. “I want it to be a natural extension of the life here,” says Shetty. He, however, acknowledges that the bar has been set too high by his predecessors.
Ever since he was appointed the curator, Shetty has been stressing on how the next edition will be a ‘democratic’ one. “I tend to include different voices as much as possible. I want new faces and want to take the Biennale to more people and to a bigger avenue,” says Shetty.
Shetty who has been known for his ‘larger than life’ innovative works - his sculpture titled ‘Love’ in which a monstrous dinosaur skeleton copulates with a sports car or the ‘Flying Bus’ which shows 9,000-kg double-decker bus with wings - is one of the few artists who is ‘lucky enough’ to go beyond the aesthetics of West. “The influence of West in our works is huge like the concept of gallery. And, people like Bose and me were able to step outside it. We didn’t have predecessors in that way, so we didn’t have to wait for their social acceptance. So, in a way we could reset the yardsticks and this freedom is something youngsters don’t have today,” says Shetty who has played with several mediums like sculptures, installations and multi-media.
But, won’t his taste get reflected in the works he choose. “How much ever I try, definitely my likes are going to be reflected. But, then again, I assure it will be democratic one,” says Shetty.
And, as he embarks on the great task, Shetty is clear about what his Biennale will be about, quality work.
The controversies surrounding the Biennale like the less number of Indian works and more international ones fail to affect him.
“We look for quality and aim to erase the boundaries that demarcate art. There is no such concept like ‘our art’ or ‘their art’. If we give consideration to ‘our’ art, then we should define who all comes under our art. Does that include Pakistan, Sri Lanka or Nepal,” asks Shetty.