Marks and Sparks in Performance during the Pandemic

Marks an innovative and interactive performance by Abheesh Sasidharan and team is a unique theatrical and performance-based artistic enterprise. It is played before the people from 2021 October 4 to 8. This collective aesthetic venture is performed in collaboration with School of Drama of Calicut University at Aranattukara campus near Thrissur. It is an artistic homage to the legendary British architect who became an Indian, Mr Laurie Baker (1917-2007) who is the master architect of the still versatile and diverse structures there standing in the Aranattukara campus. Architecture, theatre, nature, performance and the people become one in an intertwined aesthetic and truly polyphonic experience.

Marks by Aheesh Sasidharan at School of Drama Trisur 2021. Photo: Ajay Sekher

The whole theatre fraternity and community at the School of Drama are involved in the elaborate moving performance. Techno-art and conservationist politics merge with human rights issues and the critique of the hierarchical society in the context of intersectionality and graded inequality. A scathing critique of power and totalitarianism is the deeply impinged impetus of the cultural event. Animalization and demonization of the human, othering and dehumanization and the biopower and resistance potential of the subjugated form a key contemporary theme that is theatrically explored and multi-vocally enacted from the beginning to the end in deeply intricate and multi-sensory ways. The various little episodes are linked through the narrative/s of motion and change. Truly multi-cultural or polyphonic vision and multi-sensory experiences make it an engaging artistic creation or combined and involved making or production of social democracy and justice at large.

From the performance Marks at School of Drama, a homage to Laurie Baker too

 The concern for humanity, life at large and ecology are thrust areas of this key artistic intervention. The very survival and sustenance of life during the contagion and the the current conjecture involving totalitarian and monopoly formations both in Kerala and India and the world at large become the real setting and context of this ethical and political act of art. A new performance idiom and language of collaborative and participatory action are also evolved through exploring the non-visual and auditory stimuli. Touch, smell, and temperature differences and sensations are also utilized dexterously in the production. Eye masking and sense of taste are subtly embedded into the performance choreography and syncretic text. The whole world becomes players and performance makers in this unison.

Animalization and othering as dramatized in Marks by Abheesh Sasidharan at SoD Trisur

Marks leaves deep and engaging imprints of life and art onto the body and mind of the engaged moving audience as they are guided through the dark interiors and starlit exteriors and the drizzling thickets and the wet hedges skirting the old bare-brick architectural ensemble in an island like landscape amidst vast Kol wetlands and paddy fields of Thrissur suburbia. The natural vegetation, huge and meandering mango trees and other wild plants that literally engulf the campus in an ethereal way in the light showers and magical lightning as the gentle rain or rainbow from heaven become the organic arena and real-life props of the performance. The twittering of the birds and their soft landing and cajoling near our ears, shoulders, and neck are mesmerizing and scintillating. The elephant encounter in the blinded play within the play is unforgettable. The smell of the wild tuskers in the humid air becomes part of our senses and reflexes.

Surviving the pandemic through agriculture and culture as depicted in Marks by Abheesh Sasidharan

Solar and dynamo-like renewable energy sources are used for lighting and minimal illuminations that sparks critical and creative thoughts, affects and emotions in the audience in intricate ways. It is a watershed in the history of performance in Kerala as its true predecessor Madness done by Abheesh on the short fiction of C Ayyappan earlier in Kochi in 2019 within a moving Ambassador motor car at Tripunitura.

Intimate and multi-sensory peformance in Marks by Abheesh Sasidharan at SoD Trisur 2021.

The improvisational and contextually evolving theatrical language used in tandem with the performers who are students and academic exponents of theatre and performance make it unique and historic once again. This collective and collaborative artwork involves and actively engages the audience in creating the music of life and a true polyphony of community and collective survival in the time of the pandemic. Let it be a new beginning for theatre and performance in Kerala after the colossal wreck of the cultural space during the pandemic.

Dr Ajay S Sekher  

5 October 2021.

ajaysekher@gmail.com +91 9895797798

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012: A Photo Critique

Kochi - Muziris Biennale 2012 main venue at Aspinwall House.  Huge bio installation on the left and bamboo structures to the right.
Kochi – Muziris Biennale 2012 main venue at Aspinwall House. Huge bio installation on the left and bamboo structures to the right.

 

Pepper House in Calvathy Road, another main venue of Kochi Biennale
Pepper House in Calvathy Road, another main venue of Kochi Biennale

 

Detail from Vivan Sundarams installation with potsherds from Pattanam/Muziris.
Detail from Vivan Sundaram’s installation with potsherds from Pattanam/Muziris.

 

Part of Kochi city ion the mainland from Fort Cochin boat dock
Part of Kochi city on the mainland from Fort Cochin boat dock

 

People from Kerala and abroad queuing up to buy tickets worth Rs 50 for the Biennale at Aspinwall.
People from Kerala and abroad queuing up to buy tickets worth Rs 50 for the Biennale at Aspinwall.

A big sculptural installation by Reghunadhan K
From a big sculptural installation by Reghunadhan K

 

Digitally altered self portraits by Vivek Vilasini
Pregnant with Kerala culture, society and history: Projected and  aligned (on one eye) self portraits by Vivek Vilasini that visually engage with the world and the region very subtly but with an illuminating impact.

Cruisers birthed at Wellington Island harbor; a view from Mattanchery
Cruisers in the Wellington Island harbor; a view from Mattanchery dock, before the Dutch Palace

 

On the ferry boat from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi for the Biennale
Self portrait taken aboard the ferry boat from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi

A huge mural on a warehouse near OED gallery
Altering the whole urban scape: A huge mural on a warehouse near OED gallery

 

"Last Supper" by Sumedh Rajendran at Aspinwall.
“Last Supper for Gaza” by Vivek Vilasini at Aspinwall.  Very much contemporary politically contingent and visionary.

The Jewish Synagogue, Jew Town, Mattanchery south of Fort Cochin.
The Jewish Synagogue, Jew Town, Mattanchery south of Fort Cochin.

 

Biennale as self discovery and empowerment: Standing tall with Babasaheb's image.
The art of the possible;Biennale as self discovery and social empowerment: Standing tall with Babasaheb’s image.  A self portrait before Vivek Vilasini’s altered portraits.

The art of flying: An egret gliding along the boat on the way to Fort Kochi for the Biennale.
The art of flying: An egret gliding along the boat on the way to Fort Kochi for the Biennale.

 

Art that responds to genocides and fascism: Detail from Zakir Husain
Art that responds to genocides and fascism: Detail from Zakir Husain

On the margins of the Biennale: Artist Victoria in her Namaste Studio on Bazar Road
On the margins of the Biennale: Artist Victoria in her Namaste Studio on Bazar Road connecting Fort Kochi with Mattanchery.

Huge installations in Aspinwall.  Inside and outside we see real and represented imagery from navigation and overseas trade.  What is real and what is imaginary is a real question in the Biennale.
Huge installations in Aspinwall. Inside and outside we see real and represented imagery from navigation and overseas trade. What is real and what is imaginary are real questions in the Biennale, prompting us to ponder on the truths in art.

 

Mala Aravindan and Parvathy Omanakuttan on location of a Malayalam film at Bazar Road.
Mala Aravindan and Parvathy Omanakuttan on location of a Malayalam film at Bazar Road.

 

Phenomenal and awesome: Subodh Gupta's big installation using an old country boat of Kochi at Aspinwall.
Phenomenal and awesome: Subodh Gupta’s big installation using an old country boat of Kochi at Aspinwall.

Riding on an auto through Bazar Road
Riding on an auto through Bazar Road

A mural on an abandoned godown wall by artists from Europe
A mural on an abandoned godown wall by artists from Europe.  The decay and garbage are also part of the lay out, connecting art with its material ground realities in an illuminating way in the third world.

 

White luxury cruising liners from Europe berthed at Kochi
White luxury cruising liners from Europe berthed at Kochi

Zen percent upcycling: A French artist and conservationist making art and toys out of plastic wastes, near OED on Bazar Road.
‘Zen’ percent up-cycling: A French artist and conservationist making art and toys out of plastic wastes, near OED on Bazar Road.

 

Riaz Komu and Bose Krishnamachari the curators of Biennale addressing the people at Aspinwall House.
Riaz Komu and Bose Krishnamachari the curators of the  Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012; addressing the people at Aspinwall House.

 

A sand painting on canvas by Paris Viswanathan
A sand painting on canvas by Paris Viswanathan

Jewish synagogue from the east.  A glimpse through the eastern gate to Jew Town, Mattanchery
Jewish synagogue from the east. A glimpse through the eastern gate to Jew Town, Mattanchery

 

Artists in conversation at Aspinwall House, Fort Cochin.
Artists in conversation at Aspinwall House, Fort Cochin.

 

An antique art cafe in Jew Town, Mattanchery, Kochi.
An antique art cafe in Jew Town, Mattanchery, Kochi.

An abstract painting by Joti Basu displayed in Aspinwall House.
An abstract painting by Joti Basu displayed in Aspinwall House.

 

Distinctly displayed and curated photographs by Atul Dodiya in the lab of Aspinwall.
Distinctly displayed and curated photographs by Atul Dodiya in the lab of Aspinwall.

Kochi from Aspinwall House, Fort Cochin.
Kochi from Aspinwall House, Fort Cochin.

 

Thumbinkal Chathan by K P Reji.  Oil on a huge canvas, the painting of the Kochi Biennale that articulates the subaltern past and present of Kerala.  The issue of caste, slavery and the dalit question is evocatively but powerfully brought forth by K P Reji in a dexterous way inspiring awe and wonder.  This huge canvas substantiates the presence of the people in the Biennale at Kochi.
Thumbinkal Chathan  (Demon at Thumbinkal or Thumbinkal Sastha)by K P Reji. Oil on a huge canvas, the pivotal painting of the Kochi Biennale 2012 that articulates the subaltern past and present of Kerala. The issue of caste, slavery and the dalit question is evocatively but powerfully brought forth by K P Reji in a dexterous way inspiring awe and wonder.  See the agricultural slave, the Pulaya Chathan/Sastha in the foreground sacrificed on the bund in the paddy field. This huge triple canvas substantiates the presence of the people in the Biennale at Kochi.

Artist Kabitha Mukherjee explaining about the gouache technique in K Prabhakaran's work exhibited with wonderful curatorial intervention at Aspinwall.
Artist Kabitha Mukherjee explaining about the gouache technique in K Prabhakaran’s work exhibited  at Aspinwall to Artist Jain K G.

 

From a multiple video installation: The deconstruction of capitalism, seems to be too plain and macro political.
From a multiple video installation: The deconstruction of ‘capitalism,’ seems to be too plain and macro political.

Binnale paintings on display at Fort Kochi beach walkway.
Painted sunset: Binnale paintings on display at Fort Kochi beach walkway.

 

Kochi through the attic casement of Moidu Heritage a prominent venue of 2012 Biennale Kochi-Muziris.
Kochi through the attic casement of Moidu Heritage a prominent venue of 2012 Biennale Kochi-Muziris.

The magical world of painting and colors at the Kochi Biennale.
The magical world of painting and colors at the Kochi Biennale.

 

Before Prabhakaran's paintings at Aspinwall.
Before Prabhakaran’s paintings and drawings at Aspinwall.

Before an installation using a motor cycle.
Before an installation using a motor cycle.

 

Sultan of Indian art: M F Husain with his Ferrari; a photo by Atul Dodiya.
Sultan of Indian art: M F Husain with his Ferrari; a photo by Atul Dodiya.

A young Indian artist's perception of the elements in a multi canvas installation at Aspinwall.
A young Indian artist’s perception of the elements in a multi canvas installation at Aspinwall.

 

Painting back and talking feminist: An amazing long canvas by Kerala artist, Jalaja P S.
Painting back and talking feminist: An amazing long canvas by Kerala artist, Jalaja P S being admired by a young group of students, mostly boys.

A Jina in white marble on display in an antique shop in Jew Town, Mattanchery.
A Jina in white marble on display in an antique shop in Jew Town, Mattanchery.

 

Northern block of Aspinwall.  Jonas Stall's installation using the flags of banned outfits on the left.  It was censored by the police.
Northern block of Aspinwall. Jonas Stall’s installation using the flags of banned outfits on the right. It was censored by the police.

A glass painting with acrylic by an Australian artist at OED, Bazar road.
A glass painting with acrylic by an Australian artist at OED, Bazar road.

 

The northern waterfront of Aspinwall.
The northern waterfront of Aspinwall.

Detail from an  installation using only organic biodegradable things at Aspinwall.
Detail from an installation using only organic biodegradable things at Aspinwall.

 

Heavan on earth: Fort Kochi milked in new year lights...
Heavan on earth: Fort Kochi milked in new year lights…

Biennale as an arena of imaging and photography.  Young students zooming in with their barrels at Pepper House.
Biennale as an arena of imaging and photography. Young students zooming in with their barrels at Pepper House.

Art that provokes the police.  Jonas Stall's installation using flags or banned outfits.
Art that provokes the police. Jonas Stall’s installation using flags or banned outfits.

 

The lonliness of the hero:  Bose Krishnamachari lost in deep though amidst the crowd at Kochi Biennale 2012.
The loneliness of the hero: Bose Krishnamachari lost in deep thought amidst the crowd at Kochi Biennale 2012.

 

Photos of the Kerala bishops by Anup Mathew Thomas.
Photos of the Kerala bishops by Anup Mathew Thomas.

Where nature, art and people meet:  props of Sheela Gowda's stone installation projecting into the Aspinwall dock beside the ship channel in Fort Kochi.
Where nature, art and people meet: props of Sheela Gowda’s stone installation projecting into the Aspinwall dock beside the ship channel in Fort Kochi.

 

A still from a breathtaking music installation quartet on street musicians across the world by Angelica Mesiti.
A still from a breathtaking music installation quartet on street musicians across the world by Angelica Mesiti. A blind train musician in the Arab world in picture.

A view of Bazar road near the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry.
A view of Bazar road near the Dutch Palace in Mattanchery.

 

A hanging installation on the attic of Moidu Heritage by Latin American artist Ernesto Neto.
A hanging installation on the attic of Moidu Heritage by Latin American artist Ernesto Neto.

Detail from K P Reji's Thoombinkal Chathan.  See the life in the periphery still and the persistent presence of the past in the present, rendered through live imagery.
Detail from K P Reji’s Thoombinkal Chathan. See the life in the periphery and the persistent presence of the past in the present, rendered through live imagery with the Chathan/Sastha/(Boddhi)Satvan lying in the foreground.  The life of the excluded in the margin is still unaltered by the shipments and cargo of modernity and social mobility.  Marginal existence exists as a phantom or specter of the real and the imagined nation and community.  The painting is such a grave socio political and aesthetic critique of Kerala modernity, democracy and cultural history at large.  It also anticipates certain coming communities that are inoperative in the contemporary sense but radically subversive in its making.  The awesome impact of the work is in its silent and solemn grey tone.  The painting generates intertextual references to the short stories of C Ayyappan and ultimately to the songs and spirituals of the legendary Poykayil Appachan who unleashed the memory of slavery in Kerala in the early decades of the 20th century.  See the power of art that can engage so swiftly with history and reality.

 

Calvathy Canal separating Frot Kochi and Mattanchery.
Calvathy Canal separating Frot Kochi and Mattanchery.

Sunset at Fort Kochi beach.
Sunset at Fort Kochi beach.