Italy, Kerala mend fences at Kochi Biennale

Last Updated: Sat, Dec 01, 2012 15:30 hrs

Kochi, Dec 1 (IANS) Italy and Kerala, going through a diplomatic chill over two Italian marines shooting dead two Indian fishermen in the high seas in February, are mending fences via art at the Kochi-Muziris Art Biennale 2012.

The biennale "will help India become the cultural face of art from all over the world, growing out of the narrow bilateral confines to forge a greater global understanding of cultural sensitivities", leading Italian social and multimedia artist Giuseppe Stampone told IANS.

"The biennale is a huge representation of artists coming from all over the world to Kochi to develop site-specific interactive art. The artists will gather an impression of India and the country needs to support this biennale.

"If it starts off well, out of the biennale will emerge a scope of a culture and of a nation more representative," the 39-year-old artist said in an interview.

Stampone, who is in the coastal Kerala city with an art intervention project, is funding his own work.

The multimedia bilingual installation - 'Uttam Duniya' in Hindi and 'Il Mundo Perfecto (The Perfect World)' in Italian - uses sights, sounds and smells of his immediate environs to comment on the globalisation of media, information and education based on messages received from transformational cultures across the world.

Stampone said the site-specific project incorporated a mosaic of images of rickshaws, billboards, texts and maps to present a changing India through a visitor's eyes.

The artist, who has been a biennale regular for a decade, believes that the "decentralisation of art from the traditional hubs in Europe and US to the emerging cities in the developing world presents the new globalised face of art".

"I have participated in the new biennales in Cuba, Sao Paolo, Liverpool and Gwangju and now India. The old biennales like the ones in Venice are like museums exhibits -- they live in their own historic formula. Europe is history. The new biennales are all happening in the new emerging world," he said.

The big biennales are capitalist with big institutions and big names without opportunities to move beyond institutional art, said Stampone, who exhibited an interactive "art in environment and education" installation at Venice last year.

Art has traditionally followed great economies such as Spain, France and Italy in the 19th century and New York in the United States in the 20th century, he said.

"But Euro-centricism and Western affinity in art do not exist any more. In fact, this idea of the West does not exist any more with countries like India and Mexico coming together at new biennales," he said.

Stampone said a part of this movement of art to the 'ground zeroes' of action was rooted in the work of the new generation of artists, who are using art as a tool for social change to open cultural and humanitarian dialogue.

He said in his work, "art expands its communicative force, entering the everyday world to alter social relationships".

Like 'Saluti da L'Aquila', which reflected on the earthquake that destroyed the city of L'Aquila.

Stampone said "art is reflecting the horizontal plane of the new world in which no one is on top of anyone else."

"There is China; there is India; there is South Korea and there is the Middle East in new art."

Another reason for art to relocate its energies in the emerging world is fiscal stagnation in economic bastions of Europe and America which have stopped state funding of art, he said.

"Italy has not invested in art in 10 years. Paradoxically, out of this has arisen a situation where great monuments have become museums," he said.

"The potential of Kochi is huge but it's not an easy biennale. The artists who have been invited believe in ethics before aesthetics. They touch upon political themes. They have not been called to paint pretty pictures. It makes the act of viewing and acceptance difficult -- away from conventional perceptions," he said.

(Madhusree Chaterjee can be contacted at

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