Two chronologically overlapping, but perhaps directly unrelated, historical episodes in Kerala during the 14th to 17th Centuries become parallel points of departure for Whorled Explorations.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014

Whorled Explorations

12 December 2014 – 29 March 2015

Artistic Director and Curator: Jitish Kallat

Curatorial Note

Drawing from them, allusions to the historical and the cosmological recur throughout the exhibition like exaggerated extensions to gestures we make when we try to see or understand something. We either go close to it or move away from it in space, to see it clearly; we also reflect back or forth in time to understand the present. Whorled Explorations draws upon this act of deliberation, across axes of time and space to interlace the bygone with the imminent, the terrestrial with the celestial.

From the 15th century, the shores of Kochi were closely linked to the maritime chapter of the ‘Age of Discovery’, a tale of grit, greed and human ingenuity, as a string of navigators arrived here after traversing­­ large uncharted portions of the planet seeking spices and riches. The era heralded an age of exchange, conquest, coercive trading and colonialism, animating the early processes of globalization. This drama of search, seduction and subjugation decisively altered the cartography of the planet. Within the shifting geography were sharp turns in history where we find, in an embryonic form, several of the themes we inherit in our world today.

The 14th to 16th Century was the time when astronomer-mathematicians belonging to what came to be known as the Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics, were making transformative propositions for understanding our planet and locating human existence within the wider cosmos. They were making mathematical breakthroughs, amongst them treatises on trigonometry and calculus. Acknowledging this vibrant history, Kochi might serve as an interesting site to invoke the mysterious expedition of our planet Earth, our shared dwelling hurtling through space at a dizzying velocity. None of the interdependent co-habitants of this twirling tenement seem to experience its speed or comprehend its direction; a productive state of uncertainty from where we may investigate several questions about our existence, take stock of our collective conflicts and ecological footprint, even as we continue to examine our place in an ever-inflating cosmos.

Whorled Explorations is conceived as a temporary observation deck hoisted at Kochi. The exhibition draws upon a wide glossary of signs from this legendary maritime gateway to bring together sensory and conceptual propositions that map our world referencing history, geography, cosmology, time, space, dreams and myths.

Jitish Kallat

Jitish Kallat was born in Mumbai in 1974, the city where he lives and works. His work has been exhibited widely at museums and institutions including Tate Modern (London), Martin Gorpius Bau (Berlin), Gallery of Modern Art (Brisbane), Serpentine Gallery (London), Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), Hangar Bicocca (Milan), ZKM Museum (Karlsruhe), Arken Museum of Moderne Kunst (Copenhagen), MAXXI (Rome) and the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney).

Kallat’s work has also featured at the Havana Biennale, Gwangju Biennale, Asia Pacific Triennale, Guangzhou Triennale, and the Kiev Biennale amongst others. He has had one-person exhibitions at galleries such as Chemould Prescott Road (Mumbai), Haunch of Venison (London), Arario (Beijing), Arndt (Berlin) and Galerie Daniel Templon (Paris). His solo exhibitions at museums include the Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai, the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne, the San Jose Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago.

Image: Jitish Kallat. Courtesy Kochi-Muziris Biennale.