Kochi: Forming a small but enthusiastic troop totalling nearly 60 members, students from a clutch of colleges around the host city have been providing organisational support to the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) that is now into its third week.
In fact, much before the international exhibition opened on December 12, some of the volunteers pitched in as assistants to the artists and helped set up the installations. The team, after all, knows it is a rare chance for each of them to be engaged with world-class artists.
Stephin T S, for instance, now knows about the suffering for art. The 20-year-old worked as an assistant with Malayali sculptor Valsan Koorma Kolleri at Cabral Yard in Fort Kochi.
The “wilderness” here is a haven for mosquitoes. But these were minor irritants for the young volunteer who took the work as an opportunity to learn from a master. “I was with a courier company, but when I got this chance, I dropped that without a second thought,” says Stephin. “I hope my experience here will serve as a stepping stone to a fine arts course.”
Kolleri, who is the only artist to appear in the 2012 and ’14 KMBs, is effusive about the assistance from Stephin. “There was nothing that the youngster would not do,” says 61-year-old Kolleri, whose work is titled ‘How goes the enemy’. “He was a great asset to me.”
Once the biennale got into full swing a fortnight ago, the volunteers were put on the ticket counter, as guides for schoolchildren and other visitors, and in maintaining the works. They are being rotated every three days to man a particular work, while some are giving training on handling sensitive works like those of Pors & Rao and Anish Kapoor.
Binoy Joseph and Aldrina Thomas, students of the new BA Animation course at Thevara’s Sacred Heart College, handle some of the works and are fascinated by the “wide thinking”. “Our art is done on paper, so it is fascinating to see the scale, the freedom and the variety of media used by biennale artists,” says 20-year-old Aldrina. “Sometimes, visitors ask why a particular work is called art and we are made to think about that. It is all a great learning.”
The volunteers are picked for their communication skills and their ability to deal with different people, and they are expected to learn a bit on all the installations. “The youngsters seem to be very well trained,” said one visitor from Chennai, who came with his college-going daughter. “The guides are good and polite. I would love for my daughter to be involved with something like this for the holidays. The exposure they get is great.”
KMB’14 Director of Programmes Riyas Komu said it is nice to have the support of volunteers for the biennale. “They work here day and night,” he notes. “Art is a space that emphasises the guru-shishya system and in a country where we are so institutionalised, the Biennale, which has an experimental nature, becomes an institution of learning of art. We strive for a cultural reawakening through the young generation,” he said.