The Biennale was steeped in the controversy in 2019 with several workers stating that they were not paid.

Singapore based Indian artist Shubigi Rao to curate Kochi Biennale 2020
news Art Friday, May 10, 2019 - 09:56

Singapore-based Indian-origin artist and writer Shubigi Rao has been named the curator of the fifth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) that begins on December 12, 2020.

The selection committee, which made the announcement on Thursday, unanimously decided to appoint Rao for her "exceptional acumen and inventive sensibilities" to curate the upcoming biennale, the Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) said in a statement.

The appointment is in keeping with the tradition of an artist helming the contemporary art festival that debuted in 2012.

Mumbai-born Rao, whose work featured in the fourth edition of the KMB (2018), is also a writer and her myriad interests include archaeology, neuroscience, libraries, archival systems, histories, literature, violence, acts of cultural genocide, anti-censorship, migratory patterns, ecology and natural history.

The announcement came after lengthy deliberations within a search committee comprising of Amrita Jhaveri, Gayatri Sinha, Jitish Kallat, Sunita Choraria and Tasneem Mehta, besides KBF trustees Alex Kuruvilla, Bose Krishnamachari and V. Sunil.

"Biennales are sometimes floating cities that are unmoored from their locality/regionality.

"Kochi-Muziris Biennale is rooted in the intertwined histories and cultural multiplicities of Kochi, while providing a crucial platform for larger discourse of the critical, political, and social in artistic practices," said the compulsive archivist and visual artist known for her complex and layered installations.

Krishnamachari, who is a co-founder of the 2010-instituted KBF, described Rao as a "brilliant and original" artist.

Rao has participated in the Taipei Biennial, Pune Biennale, the Singapore Biennale and the Singapore Writers Festival.

In the final week of Biennale 2019, an insta account justicefrombiennale18-19 had several posts of workers who erected various installations and have allegedly been waiting for their payment for over 4 months.

The Foundation was served a legal notice dated March 18, by Appu Thomas, on behalf of Thomas Clery Infrastructures and Developers Pvt Limited, contractors hired by Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF).The company alleged that the KBF owes them money to the tune of Rs 77 lakh. They even called the KBF’s way of functioning ‘haphazard and unprofessional’ and alleged that the works were not sanctioned and payments not made in time.

KBF in a response that reeked of elitism, dismissed the legal notice and Instagram page as disinformation and said that they would respond legally. The page which alleged worker dues now is no longer up on instagram. 

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