Students’ Biennale 2016: Inclusiveness, interventionist spirit lauded

Conference discusses future role of flagship KBF art outreach initiative in Indian art education

Kochi, March 18: A range of nuanced perspectives on the future of art education in India and the prospects for the Students’ Biennale (SB) as an agent of intervention and engagement within the art institutional landscape in the country informed discussion at a symposium that began here today.

Titled ‘The Future of Indian Art Education’, the two-day conference – that features participation from some of the biggest organisations involved in art learning – was inaugurated by Fort Kochi Sub-Collector Dr Adeela Abdulla at the Ayana hotel. It concludes on Sunday, March 19.

Noting that Indian higher education students, lacked successful models to give them direction, Dr Abdulla expressed hope that the Students’ Biennale would fill the gap with the government providing logistical support. “While there are several renowned artists who have come out of Kerala, art students have struggled for lacking of practical skills to complement school instruction. This is where the SB comes in. I am confident the Kochi Biennale Foundation will continue to expand the programme, perhaps even take it to more spaces in Kerala,” she said.

The conference is organised by the KBF together with the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) and the Foundation for Indian Art and Education (FIAE), and supported by Tata Trusts, the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation and Ayana, Fort Kochi.

Over its run, the conference sees deliberations by SB 2016 curators, teachers, researchers, artists, among other advisors, which will reflect critically on the ongoing second edition of the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s (KBF) flagship art education initiative. To that end, panel discussions have already examined the SB’s positioning aside art institutions and its ability to negotiate impasses in current art infrastructure.

Illustrating the difficulties faced by art school students with examples from his own experience, KBF President Bose Krishnamachari said, “Art school education and its challenges informed my thinking on where the gaps are and what new approaches need to be taken. Contemporary art students only need inspirational, encouraging mentors, friends or mediators. More importantly, we have to reform the way in which art schools are designed and governed. We need to learn from the best examples and models that exist whilst not ignoring what we all know ourselves.”

“Hundreds of art students have worked at the KBF. We have become in some ways a university of the future. At the same time, we showcase hundreds of student artworks through the SB. I believe this merging of theory and practice is important. Both must go hand in hand for art education to be successful. As well, diversity in practice needs to be encouraged,” he added.

Besides creating an alternate space for 465 art students from 55 art schools across the country to better articulate their practice and creating a communication platform between art institutions, Education Consultant Meena Vari said SB 2016’s “greatest success has been the emphasis on collective curatorial responsibility”.

Noting that it was thrilling to see the SB’s growth, inclusiveness and engagement with the contemporary, Tata Trusts Senior Programme Manager Deepika Sorabjee said, “The SB reflects KBF’s commitment to pan-Indian art education. Contemporary art has flourished in India in spite of institutions. The question now is how to leverage the SB to influence art instruction? Can the SB become a springboard for engagement with art institutions?”

Negotiating institutional attitudes to contemporary art is one of the long-term repercussions of the SB’s interventions and the fraternities it forges, said FICA Director Vidya Shivadas. “The SB itself emerged from a corrective process into a form that compresses several energies into it. This allows it to not only generate its own agencies, but also negotiate positions,” Shivadas said.

Describing the conference as a site for collective thinking, KBF Director of Programmes Riyas Komu said, “This forum, and its involvement of major art institutions, is directed to working towards a new policy for Indian art pedagogy. It is an attempt to brainstorm ideas to build art infrastructure and diverse routes and methods to approach art education.”


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