Anita Dube Speaks of Curating Art Beyond Boundaries

As the fourth edition of Kochi Muziris Biennale draws to a close, the curator talks of her journey 

Kochi is hosting the fourth edition of its very own Kochi Muziris Biennale that has become a popular global platform for expression of art today. This year, apart from the celebration and exhibition of art in a multidimensional, epic scale, the event boldly echoed voices – voices from the margins. There were artists and collectives from across the globe who spoke about gender rights and equality, there was a distinct element of women empowerment with more women artists coming to the forefront, art installations involving the queer community and artists from all walks of life who jointly put up a great show. It was invigorating to see how suppressed voices were given their due space amidst celebrated artists. The mastermind behind it all is the renowned contemporary artist and a true liberalist at heart, who has literally broken all the barriers and invisible norms laid down by social conditioning. As the grand art fiesta draws to a close, RITZ is delighted to catch up with the first ever lady curator of the Kochi Muziris Biennale, Anita Dube.

Interview: Riya Sonny Datson

Art is a strong medium of expression. How did you recognise that this was your calling?  

It was a late realisation in my life. I ended up, almost by accident, giving an interview to Gulam Sheikh at Baroda for a Master’s in Art Criticism. From there, spending most of my time with artists, and being heavily involved with artist groups made me try my hand in art making. Once I felt a mastery and ease with material, there was no going back!

Looking back, what were the main highlights of your journey as the curator of this grand art fiesta?

There have been many greatly rewarding parts of this process– seeing people interact with the Biennale, being affected by works, walking away with a different view than when they first came in. I have also been happy to see the Pavilion being taken over by different groups and opening up the space for everyone. In the process of making the Biennale, I will cherish the conversations I shared with artists, friends and my team, that greatly helped inform my curatorial vision. I hope that the rest of the Biennale continues to be an open space of dialogue.

This year you have brought in voices of women empowerment, the queer community and the weaker sections of the society. Was that a conscious decision on your part?

My curatorial vision was based on the crucial importance of listening if we are to hope for a different way of living. So, I hoped to treat the Biennale as a platform for voices that are often side lined in discourse, including in the art world. It was also important, I felt, for this space to become actively and openly politicised, to show an audience the power of creating platforms for discussion. Marginalised communities are worst affected by structural violence and alienation– so we must prioritise these voices when thinking about a different future.

Organising the KMB at such a large scale must have been chaotic. What kept you going amidst it all?

Indeed, the months leading up to the Biennale were hectic and full of challenges! I was incredibly lucky to have a strong team diligently and effectively working with me for the same goal. I think what kept us all going was the promise of the end result and a belief in the ideas of community that underlined the exhibition this year. Of course, I made sure to take some evenings off with good conversation and a drink!

Your biggest take away from the Biennale?

I have learned how to conduct an orchestra– to think on a macro scale that one doesn’t have to, so much as an artist.

What is next on your bucket list? 

I am very excited about getting back to my studio and restarting my practice, which I have put aside for nearly 2 years! I miss making art and think I need to do some small-scale work for a while.