Temsüyanger Longkumer @ Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2019
Emoji summary: 🌈🌫💧
Last weekend I went all the literal way from Liverpool to India for 3 days (this is truly the maddest thing i will ever type or do - fyi we had to be back in time for other jobs otherwise tbh we’d still be there eating ladoo). blessed and blessed and blessed ! tbh, i left my imposter syndrome in england so i could enjoy myself for once. and without it, flew over to Kochi, way down in Kerala in South India to see the major art festival there. Kochi-Muziris Biennale were flying us out and even madder woz the fact there were no strings attached - no writing commission, instagram expectations, requirements to say nice things. nada. So, I think this is what people mean when they say ‘once in a lifetime opportunity’ because I’m not sure they’re going 2 have us back lol. however much I’m looking forward to telling my grandkids in the future-future how one time someone paid for me to travel to a different continent just to see an exhibition, the criticism we publish on The White Pube is too sincere to be bought - too rounded, and felt, so please when you’re reading us dw yourself about any bias. The flight was sound. I played Zelda on my switch and barely noticed the turbulence because I was doing shrines, excited for the transition i was about to enjoy going from game rupees to real life rupees as Zelda and India use the same currency;; how satisfying. I leaned over a sleeping Zarina to take pictures out the window of clouds and a pink skyline that looked like a chupa chups sour strip wrapped loose around the earth. it’s funny that planes have windows isn’t it, you’d think they’d pop and we’d all fall out or something.
Reader, understand there could be a whole 6000 word institutional critique posted on this Biennale. it was rocked last year by #metoo revelations when womxn harnessed Instagram to call out the violent and sexist culture propagated by the arts organisation as well as other cases across India. Though that culture has apparently started to lift in parts thanks to the activism of the @herdandscene account, this Biennale still has its issues. Just two days ago, a new Instagram went up titled @justicefrombiennale18_19 which is demanding the Kochi Biennale Foundation pay outstanding fees for contractors. We’re not the ones to ride in and write about staff and worker exploitation but we can deffo signal boost, so please check those out. In 3 jet-lagged days all we can get a real sense of is the exhibition programme and how it feels to be a visitor wandering into these spaces and confronting the art itself. that’s such a privilege, to be able to see the art without being caught up in the politics of the operations around it and we’ll continue to bang that drum ! but it’s good for us to write on the art for the sake of the artist too, so they know how it felt for the unencumbered / magnified / privileged tourist to encounter their work. we ran round Kochi like two sticky kids in 37 degree heat, ow, sipping fresh lime soda between exhibitions and trying to see and feel everything the programme had to offer. very plainly i was so excited to find new artists for my heart ! i’ve never been on a getaway residency before but I guess this was close to it, like a residency for art critics where our mobile data was off, the wifi was few and far between, and all we could do was experience things and think about them. it’s in that hot focused state we came across Temsüyanger Longkumer’s installation at one of the venues, Pepper House, n it’s what i wanna write about as a start. a little sorbet review 2 get us started on our Biennale coverage.
> i hope these words read warm because i need you to sense the air i’m writing through. wet small of the back. forearms and cheeks lookin like Glossier skin. It was so hot I didn’t care to be in direct sunlight even though I always love when my freckles wake up. and, so bright that my eyes could never adjust when walking from high sun into blacked-out gallery spaces where we could watch projections (as a testament to this, I literally missed the bench and fell on my bum at one point n smacked my head on the wall. I had a headache the rest of the dayyyyy). I didn’t have a swimming costume with me but I wanted to stop all our work and fall headfirst into the sea; we saw dolphins from the ferry n i thought oh they must be nice and cool, I’ll join them now pls. The Pepper House venue this review finds us in has an open green space at its centre and there was a big metal structure over it like goal posts or a giant staple. We had been sitting to the side of it cooling down when suddenly mist started to fall from the bar across the top, evenly misting the grass. Everyone started to walk towards the new cloud like a magnet, and we were told if u run through the light water you could see a rainbow. we were in there running back and forth hunting, and then i saw him, curved around my ankles in a fuzzy arc. Because of angles and light and eyes, this thing had appeared to me n me alone - and when other people exclaimed they could see one, it was only theirs. I forgot we were inside art and only left when I realised how wet my phone was after I’d had it out trying to make sure you readers could see it too. ‘Catch A Rainbow II’ is Longkumer’s second time giving the world this game, and it’s the type of art i just so easily love. transformative magic thing. You hav to think, artists sit in their studios deciding what to MAKE or DO or BECOME and it’s largely formal, boring, political or depressing and Longkumer’s just been like, you know what, i’m gonna make a cloud that if you RUN THROUGH IT U SEE UR OWN PRivate RAINBOW. We all have art that stays with us - it might be a single photograph, painting, or this intense film you once saw. But for me, it’s the experimental showstopper art i hold onto, the type of thing conservative art writers would turn their noses up at because it’s not cerebral enough. i wish they would live a little. Am thinking Ann Veronica Janssens yellowbluepink at the Wellcome Collection, Chromosaturation by Carlos Crus-Diez, Nicholas Hlobo’s ribbon room in the bluecoat for 2010 liv biennial, the fkin balloon room by Martin Creed at the Southbank Centre, YouMeBumBumTrain, the blue cobalt crystal room by Roger Hiorns or Anish Kapoor’s vortex and twister pieces (which ive only seen in pics but i can imagine can’t i).
i felt so much appreciation for Catch A Rainbow, which came off rare in its pleasure, ease, and the movement u have to make searching for the prize. it is true like, You know how sometimes just moving can lift your spirits? My therapist once told me really seriously that if I was ever feeling high anxiety and like my life was out of my control, to do this thing. sat together in that bright clinic, he asked me to put my arm out straight in front of me, so i did. then, to turn my palm so it was facing upwards, make a fist, and put my middle finger up. I burst out laughing even tho I’d been crying a minute ago. it really snapped my body into action, by forcing my hand i forced my mood. this is the type of art u can’t stay mad in. it was a brief relief from heat and wider biennale gossip and criticisms but i write this as a thank you to the artist, for tucking something kind within the chaos.
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