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Cochin-Muziris Biennale runs into trouble

TK Devasia (Kerala Buzz) / 16 November 2012

Controversies have drowned several initiatives in the state. The 100 per cent literate state’s penchant for controversies has now caught up with the efforts being made by two reputed Mumbai-based artistes of Kerala origin to catapult the port city of Cochin onto the world art map.

The Cochin-Muziris Biennale, an international exhibition of the contemporary art, conceived by Bose Krishnamachari and Riyaz Komuz, has run into trouble with the government stopping funding for the unique project on the basis of a leaked report of the inspection wing of finance department.

The report containing the inspection findings of alleged misuse of Rs50 million given by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government out of total Rs420 million sanctioned for the project has recommended ‘black listing’ of the organisers, the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF).

Though Culture Minister K C Joseph admitted that he has not officially received the report, he has not only announced suspension of further funding but also hinted a review of the government’s decision to rent its spaces for the exhibitions to be held as part of the three-month long biennale beginning from December 12.

KBF co-founder Riyas Komus said it was sad that the government had taken the stand without verifying the facts. He said more than Rs30 million was used for renovating the Durbar Hall and other government properties selected for hosting exhibitions and other events. The remaining was used for promoting the event in the country and outside.

KBF director Bose Krishnamachari says Rs20 million is peanut considering the magnitude of the work they have done in attracting the artistes of international repute. He said he and his colleagues had spent much more than this sum from their pockets.

The two feel that the campaign against the biennale has been orchestrated by a group of frustrated local artistes.

It’s unfortunate that they are now trying to torpedo the project without considering the immense benefits it will bring not only to the city but also to the state as a whole. Bose said a similar biennale held in Liverpool in 2008 had brought investments worth Rs30 billion to the city.

The Cochin biennale, which is the first of its kind in the country, was expected to bring much more investment as the organisers are expecting half a million culture tourists from across the world during the three-month long programmes. Bose said the tourism department had realized the potential and had extended full support to the event.

Bose said several individuals, including NRIs, had also offered financial support following the campaign against the biennale. A USA-based NRI hailing from Gujarat has offered Rs7 million. Some artistes have also offered to meet their own expenses over the projects they are undertaking during the biennale. “These gestures have boosted our morale and we are hopeful that we will be able to go ahead with the event without compromising the quality”, Bose said. 


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