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Thinking a local Cosmopolitanism – the Kochi Muziris Biennale: Interview with Dilip Menon by Riyas Komu and CS Venkiteswaran

English transcript of  interview published in Malayalam in Mathrubhumi Weekly, October 17 2017.

CSV

Kochi is a curious choice as a site for an international art event like Biennale, isn’t it? It has played no prominent role insofar as art activity, practice or market is concerned, nor is it a metropolitan city like Mumbai or Delhi. One qualification, of course, could be its long cosmopolitan history of trade and the movement of people, ideas, religions or goods from time immemorial. Is KMB in a way, trying to invoke and re-imagine the cosmopolitan past or heritage of a place like Kochi?

Dilip Menon

I think there is a particular history to why such an event should happen in Kochi, and why it could be successful here alone. Kochi, being a port city, was always part of a universe that was much larger than the immediate geography within which it is located. So, like most port cities, it sits on the edge of land and looks out to the sea. When one thinks about the idea of cosmopolitanism, there is something about the already existing cosmopolitanism of port cities, whether it is Malacca, Kochi or Venice. It is not without significance that two of the more important biennales are in Venice and Kochi. I think that a port city is located in a much longer history of movements of people, ideas, materials and political ideologies across the ocean.  Even though these ports are now part of nation-states, their histories and memories are much deeper and much longer. The Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB) is able to summon up these memories.

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