The Boys at the Biennale

Only the bad boys at Yara made it to the Kochi Muziris Biennale one Saturday, especially since everybody else was happy to do saner things that weekend.


But before they got to Fort Kochi, there were a few stops. The best of these was catching up with Favor Francis in Thrissur. “There’s a place even better than Aarya’s,” he said, and led us through winding roads on his cute little Honda Navi (with 100-kg Visualiser Shrutiraj testing the bike’s pillion power). The spacious Vrindavan Inn rewarded the team with super tasty and crisp dosas and vadas.


The next best stop was the award-winning Anaswara printers who print some of the best catalogs, books and brochures in this part of the world.  With more catalogs and brochures on Yara’s worklist, the idea was to look for new kinds of paper, design and printing. The most interesting samples of work at Anaswara was a wedding card designed as a journal for the guests’ 3-day stay in Agra (it even had the weather for those three days), and a superbly print and bound giant tome on Kalam art in Kerala.


And finally, as they reached Fort Kochi, hunger struck. Google maps led them to a closed restaurant, after which it was a blind chase that ended up in an off-looking place called Jeff Biryani written on an unwelcoming yellow and purple board. But the food and the proprietor, Hathim, were more than welcoming, and the hungry five shared the last three plates of delicious Bombay Biryani.


The Biennale wouldn’t be half as attractive if it weren’t for the setting. And it was the setting, the air, the place that set the tone for the rest of the day. Fort Kochi’s old warehouses and offices, now turned into elegant whitewashed and red-roofed buildings, were the main venues of the event. The most famous of these is perhaps the Aspinwall building, referred to in the hit Malayalam song Kayalinarike.


The team happened to meet Annah Chakola of Boho Gypsy there, and exchanged some furtive pleasantries. Perhaps Yara can help with the branding and advertising of her stunning range of offbeat jewelry and accessories? Anytime she thinks she needs a touch of our magic. Perhaps, perhaps. It’s always fun to co-work with people who are passionate about what they do. The outcome is bound to be awesome.


As the tour of the Biennale progressed it became harder to distinguish between art and everything else that was there. Yara’s Creative Director Javed was pulled down from the top of a broken concrete slab by the Biennale crew after informing him that was a work of art he did not understand. This really happened. Have a look at Swiss Artist Bob Gramsma‘s ‘riff off’ at Fort Kochi in case you want to take sides.


Design Director Anas Kodiyathur has always been clear about his claim, ‘I’m a designer, not an artist.’ A few hours into his first Biennale, he underlined his position with the wry observation that ‘the people here, they look like they’ve all been thrown out of their homes.’ Despite certain inaccuracies, this had the team rolling in laughter.


Designer Denny (by now branded Hungry Denny) saw most of the Biennale through the camera, even getting thrown out as he kept poking his lens into places that said ‘No Entry’.  It was in Pepper House, though, that he found something of real interest, the sound and video installation by Hannah Tuulikki.


To see Calicut-based architect Tony’s Biennale Pavilion was Yasir’s aim right from the start. And getting there right at the end proved great. The inside was cool and dimly lit. And having been just emptied of a bunch of debating academics, the place seemed like a quiet beach to lay back in, watching the waves of the changing multicolor ceiling.


The day ended on a quiet, balmy note at Fort Kochi’s Chinese fishing nets, watching a batch of fresh squid come by boat, and people posing weirdly for photographs. For dinner, Kashi Art Cafe had no power and too many people, so the team hit on a radical alternative: Burger King at Lulu Mall. It was a dose of wholesome commercial fare at the mall, including some Italian motorbikes and Japanese cars on show, spicy fried chicken wings and a tour of the football-field sized electronics store Lulu Connect.


The journey back to Calicut was a smooth night drive in the wide-wheeled Nissan Terrano. The only break was by a roadside stall that made tea from muddy water. Yara is not looking to collaborate with that guy.