Creativity for change: how these artists remind us that progress must come with a purpose

Kochi-Muziris Biennale

The fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale features creative works by 95 artists in 10 locations around the heritage Fort Kochi district, as well as nine satellite venues. See Part Iand Part II of our photo essays, as well as our coverage of the Bangkok Biennale.

From politics to nature, the art works in this photo essay point a way to hope in their own creative manner. For example, some artists go beyond paints and sculptures to show how ropes (Mrinalini Mukherjee) and seashells (Julie Gough) can be used in installations.

Crushed dreams, the sorrow of conflict, and displacement after natural calamities leave deep scars on society (Rula Halawani, Srinagar Biennale, Chittoprasad Bhattachary). Social divides continue to thrive even after the end of the colonial era (BV Suresh). Rising corruption plagues emerging economies, holding back their right to progress. Reckless urban and rural development wreak havoc on habitat and nature.

It takes sensitisation and a demand for justice to dissect and tackle social-political problems. The artists in this photo essay go beyond images of doom and gloom to show that creative solutions can indeed be found, and in a sustainable manner. They raise awareness about the importance of human rights, dignity, identity, inclusion and expression (Zanelle Muholi; the Braille edition of the Biennale brochure).

“Success for an artist comes from the happiness of making a connect with the audience. It comes from sensitising them to the loss of others, and helping them be grateful for what they have,” said painter-photographer Manisha Gera Baswani, in a chat with YourStory.

Her exhibit, titled Postcards from Home, features photographs of Indian and Pakistani artists whose parents moved across the border during partition. Those who have overcome their sense of loss and displacement in a dignified manner are a source of inspiration for the next generation, she explains.

She advises aspiring artists to listen to their heart, and have faith that the impact of their work will eventually emerge. This is particularly important in a time of international tension and domestic conflict, Manisha urges.

Now, what have you done today to pause and take stock of the world around us, and do your bit to create a better place for us all?

[“source=yourstory”]

Animals and Us review – four-legged insights give artists paws

I’m not sure what Cory Arcangel’s video Drei Klavierstücke Op. 11 says about our relationship with animals – except that we think it’s funny when a cat plays the piano. So many people have posted so many YouTube videos of cats pawing the ivories that Arcangel has been able to edit a constellation of cute clips, so the cacophony of cats coheres into a brilliant staccato rendition of Arnold Schoenberg’s 1909 expressionist masterpiece Drei Klavierstücke. The pussycats stumble, crawl and gingerly tap keys in a montage that must have taken stupendous effort to create. What is the true art – Schoenberg’s composition, Arcangel’s re-creation of it, the YouTube videos – or the piano-playing of the cats?

Turner Contemporary’s delightful exploration of the borderline between human culture and the rest of the animal world is full of such mind-expanding moments. Cuteness and horror, love and cruelty nuzzle side by side. A series of noble photographic portraits of dogs by Charlotte Dumas is arresting. When you find out that all are veteran rescue dogs who comforted survivors and workers at the World Trade Center site in September 2001, they become more heroic still. These dogs have such kind faces. Do they know what they did, the part they played in history? They are studies in goodness.

Human beings have been seeing character in other species for tens of thousands of years. The oldest paintings that exist, in caves decorated by ice age hunters, are sensitive portrayals of species including mammoths, bison and horses. This exhibition doesn’t have any stone age art, but it does have an ancient Egyptian figurine of the cat-headed goddess Bastet from the collection of Sigmund Freud, who saw the dreamlike quality of the Egyptian pantheon. The animal-centric mythology of ancient Egypt resurfaces in Michal Rovner’s 2017 video portraits of jackals. Filmed with a night-vision camera near the Israel-Palestine border, these wild dogs associated in ancient times with death become minatory ghosts, their bright eyes watching as you edge past them.

The most radical works in this haunting exhibition go beyond contemplating animals to try and break down the border between species. A film of Joseph Beuys’s 1974 performance I Like America and America Likes Me documents the three days he spent locked in a cage with a wild coyote. Beuys cajoles, mystifies and befriends the supposedly dangerous American critter. When he plays the triangle, it runs terrified into a corner. Was this green politics or animal abuse?

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I Like America and America Likes Me, by Joseph Beuys

There are no such worries with Andy and Peter Holden’s A Natural History of Nest-Building (2017), a homage in video and sculpture to the architectural genius of birds. Like Arcangel’s cat musicians, but more scientifically, this essay on bird builders raises a serious question about the supposed uniqueness of human culture. Are we really the only species with a feeling for beauty? Is art as uniquely human as we suppose it to be? Sculpture for Octopuses, a 2013 work by Shimabuku, is a collection of coloured glass balls designed to test the favourite colours of cephalopods. It is half artwork, half experiment. Octopuses collect interesting objects, just as we do on the beach. What’s the difference?

Sculpture for Octopuses, by  Shimabuku
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 Sculpture for Octopuses, by Shimabuku. Photograph: Courtesy: Galerie Barbara Wien, Berlin

This show is full of wonder. It includes unexpected and moving sketches of dogs and donkeys by JMW Turner; a surprisingly subversive double portrait of the contrasting lives of a poor dog and a posh dog by Edwin Landseerthat surely comments on the inequalities of Britain when it was painted in 1829; and a mystical figure of a hare on its hind legs by Barry Flanagan.

In 2013, Tracey Emin befriended a fox in her wild garden in Provence. Her video Love Never Wanted Me documents their encounter in filmed clips and still photos of the fox eating in her kitchen, wandering among rocks and trees, finally vanishing back into nature. As she follows it, camera in hand, her voice on the soundtrack talks about love, loneliness, loss. It is a beautiful encounter – she wants to be friends with the fox, but she’s not trying to tame it. In the end, she has to watch it leave. She respects its wildness. It respects hers.

  • Animals and Us is at Turner Contemporary, Margate, from 25 May until 30 September

[“Source-theguardian”]

Brazil artists turn former government building into creative centre

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Creativity is blooming in one of the least likely of places in Brazil.

The 13-storey Ouvidor building in the heart of Sao Paulo used to be a local government building before it fell out of use.

Empty and derelict, the site was wasted until 300 painters, sculptors, circus performers and musicians moved in, transforming it into an artistic hub.

Now, they want the house officially declared a creative centre.

Al Jazeera’s Daniel Schweimler reports from Sao Paulo.

[“Source-aljazeera”]