Artist In Laboratory



Atul Dodiya says there is a tremendous buzz around the country about the biennale.

Space is the creative laboratory for artists, and Kochi-Muziris
Biennale has plenty of it. “Space in this place excites me,” says Atul Dodiya, one of the prominent Indian artists taking part in the biennale.

Standing in the leafy, expansive compound of Aspinwall House, the largest venue of the biennale, Atul exudes excitement about biennale coming to his home country. ‘Indian artists travel and exhibit the world over  individually but the thrill of having biennale coming home is special,” says Atul, whose work has been shown around the world.

The evening sun glides down through mango leaves, shadows lengthen but his eyes glint when he speaks of biennale.  “When we were students,we had only imagined about the works of masters. Everything was in the text. Now, with a biennale coming to India, the students and aspiring artists can see the best of contemporary visual art firsthand,” adds the Mumbai-based artist.

Atul is back in Kochi to oversee the installation of his artwork for the inaugural edition of Kochi-Muziris Biennale. “There is a buzz across
the country about the biennale,” he says, while volunteers unpack wooden cases. “Everyone in Indian art fraternity is talking about Kochi-Muziris Biennale, and everyone wants to be here.”

His project is based on 231 photographs he has chosen of people
who have contributed in some ways to Indian art in the last 70 years.
It was not an easy task to pick 231 from over 7,000 photographs he
has collected over the years from around the world. “More than the photographs themselves, it is about how you arrange them—what comes where, and it makes all the difference.”

Each photograph is framed using costly museum glass because Atul believes in giving the best for the biennale in his home country.
“If I was showing in Venice or Paris, I would have gone for the best,
and why not for Kochi?”

Atul’s work will be shown in a part of the sprawling Aspinwall which was once used as lab. “It creates the context, and presents to the
viewer a unique experience,” adds Atul.

A laboratory is the place where a scientist experiments, and here the artist becomes a scientist using the ‘white cube’ of an old chemical lab to evoke a chemistry between the art and the viewer.

“When I came here in September I knew my project will be with photographs, but when I walked into the lab, there was a creative spark, and I knew then itself what I was going to do. ”Next to the building is the sea. “The wind from the sea will bring in the world into the photographs, and the ships that pass by will remind us of the voyages of the yore.”

Sea breeze blows into the room. A ship sails by. Atul gets busy talking to the volunteers, and walks into the hall. The artist in laboratory.


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