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Brush strokes and recitals: Pune Biennale hits the right note

In its third year, the Pune Biennale has really come into its own.

mumbai Updated: Jan 07, 2017 00:39 IST
Yogesh Joshi
An installation on the theme of migration, made of pieces of junk by artist Nikhil Karoshi
An installation on the theme of migration, made of pieces of junk by artist Nikhil Karoshi(HT)

Classical dancers emerge from the audience and step into a frame on stage, posing as art by Raja Ravi Varma.

In its third year, the Pune Biennale has really come into its own.

Identity and Self is the theme of this edition of the Pune Biennale (January 5 – 29). And it’s been explored and expressed in a myriad ways, through paintings and performance art, drawings, sculptures and mixed-media works that are currently sprinkled along the arterial Jangali Maharaj Road and adjoining streets, at Sambhaji Park, the Phule museum, SSPMS ground and Pataleshwar caves.

More than 200 artists from 18 countries and across 40 cities within India are showcasing works here. Some are established names, such as Sarnath Banerjee and Shubijit Rao. Others are promising young artists.

The flagship project at the biennale is Habit-Co-Habit, curated by Zasha Colah and Luca Cerizza, featuring installations all along JM Road created by the likes of Hungarian-born French architect Yona Friedman and sculptor Massimo Bartolini.

“One question that influenced our choices was that of living together in an increasingly complex urban reality. This exhibition aims to discuss the possibilities and, indirectly, how art can be “framed” in such a context,” says Zasha Colah, who curated curated Habit-Co-Habit with Luca Cerizza.

Other major showings include a photography exhibition titled ‘Migration: To Be And Not To Be’, curated by Bina Sarkar Ellias.

“Migration is a difficult issue that needs to be addressed, especially by the youth. They need to question it, and not be apathetic. With this exhibition we are hoping to sensitise the audiences,” Ellias said.

Elsewhere, Chennai filmmaker duo Anushka Meenakshi and Iswar Srikumar have brought their U-ra-mi-li Project (Songs of Our People, in the Naga Chokri dialect) to the biennale via a short film shot in the area around Pune’s iconic Z-bridge. “The film portrays the socio-economic situation of that area with an attitude that mixes documentary precision with surrealistic moments,” says Meenakshi.

Also at SSPMS, shipping containers serve as galleries, showcasing photo-chronicles of migrants and their histories, chequered with hope, loss, struggle and fulfillment, alongside documentary reels and poetry on migration.

Outside, the ground is peppered with art installations made using scrap metal and wood taken from the Pune civic body.

“The idea was to take scrap from Pune, transform it into art, and give it back to the city,” says Ashwini Pethe, joint managing director of the Pune Biennale Foundation.

“This is the first time I have witnessed an art event on such a massive scale. The Pune Biennale is revolutionising art by making it open to all and inviting all of Pune to be a part of it,” says student Vibhum Sharma.

Adds content consultant Gayathri Vasudevan: “Art is usually projected as only for niche audience, and initiatives like Pune Biennale are a great way to bust this myth and revive interest in the fine arts among people.”