Curatorial Note: Whorled Experience
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. 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.
Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014