Kochi: Further energising art education and curricula, the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) will enable 200 student-artists participate alongside the fourth edition of the subcontinent’s biggest contemporary art festival beginning December 12.

Under the Students’ Biennale 2018, nearly 80 private and public art schools from India and South Asia will be involved in more than 100 projects in individual or group-based formats. The third edition of the Students’ Biennale is being organised after shortlisting from 1,500 applications that came in response to an open call the foundation had made on July 2 seeking project proposals.

In an attempt to reach out to a larger pool of emerging artists, the Students’ Biennale, for the first time, will showcase works by students from SAARC countries. As many as 27 participants from Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka will put up 10 projects in total.

Launched in 2014, the Students’ Biennale is an educational initiative that provides a platform for BFA and MFA students to produce, exhibit and reflect on their works on an international platform. The KMB, which is India’s largest contemporary art event, will have its fourth edition concluding on March 29 next year.

The 2018 edition of the Students’ Biennale will have a multi-pronged approach: it will feature an art exhibition, an expanded education forum and field-based research related to art education, according to organisers.

“This year, the Students’ Biennale will have two components,” reveals Bose Krishnamachari, president of the 2011-founded KBF. “One is an exhibition, by six curators, who have mentored the projects of young artists, built their show and helped them develop the project. At the same time, we have art educators, who work with art schools, where students can engage with things that are not regularly part of the curriculum.”

Under the Exhibition Platform, the young artists will be mentored by six established curators. They are Sanchayan Ghosh (Visva-Bharati University, Santiniketan), Shukla Sawant (JNU, Delhi), independent curator Shruti Ramalingaiah and artists Krishnapriya C P, K P Reji and M P Nishad.

Sawant, who has been involved with the initiative since its inception in 2014, notes that the focus of the KMB’s previous Students’ Biennale had largely focused on government institutions. “This time, we have expanded the mandate to include other alternate institutions. The works of participating student artists are mostly informed by local concerns and quote physical sites through critical engagement with materials,” he says. “But they have a much broader meaning. For, these conversations will take place on an international platform (KMB).”

The Student’s Biennale is centred on the idea of “Making as Thinking”, says Faiza Hasan, Education Coordinator of the KBF. Under this, the participants will be encouraged to respond to how a studio can be situated in the framework of the institution, and how the notion of making can become a process of responding to their context and reflecting beyond.

“This year, many participating students have chosen to work on site-specific works,” Hasan notes. “They involve direct engagement with the location or space. For example, the city of Kochi.”

The projects and artworks, created by the young artists, will be displayed at multiple venues in Mattancherry of West Kochi. These include warehouses, temple properties and trading houses.

The Expanded Education Programme, which is a new addition to the latest edition of the Students’ Biennale, will have nine national and international artist-educators offering a series of curriculum-based interventions through workshops at select art colleges in India.

The workshops, focusing on art history, technology, critical theory, public art, architecture and curation, will support younger artists in undertaking process-oriented and practice-based learning. The educators, who will be further supported by a team of researchers, include B V Suresh, Kausik Mukhopadhyay, Mriganka Madhukaillya, Santhosh Sadanandan, Sarada Natarajan, Thamotharampillai Shanaathanan, Federica Martini, Igal Myrtenbaum and Rangoato Hlasane.

The Students’ Biennale is executed in association with Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art and Foundation for Indian Art Education, with the principal support of Tata Trusts. The entire list of participating artists can be viewed here.

The KMB, known as the “People’s Biennale”, is curated this year by eminent artist Anita Dube, focusing on the theme of “Possibilities for a Non-Alienated Life”. The exhibition will be supported by ancillary programmes such as talks, workshops, film screenings and music across a range of venues in Kochi.

By Manoj

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