Art-stained streets, sprawling warehouses, quaint studios of varied provenance, wayside cafes, a fleet of autos marked ‘Art-O’s and a genial mass of people have come together in a spectacular manner to play hosts to about half a million visitors arriving in Fort Kochi from across the globe. The Kochi Muziris Biennale, the gateway of art named after an erstwhile gateway of trade is a veritable melting-pot of multi-cultural experiences. Many visits are mandated, as there are multiple realities to grasp, as promised by its curator. For someone like me, who has a proclivity for classical arts, and likes crisp, univocal answers to all the vague questions that pop up in her head, visit number one had the effect of a heady cocktail on an empty stomach.
Post hangover, I ruminated for several days on the bulging file of unanswered queries that I brought back home with me. I was reminded of a speech I’d heard some years ago on ‘The Dangers of a single story’ by Nigerian novelist , Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Clearly, there were many stories at play here; multiple perspectives woven into a cogent whole. After reading through the curatorial concept of the pupil forming in the eye, I decided woefully that I was no sage to grasp, in one potent glance, the multiple realities on offer. Instead, I was the humble student whose musings meandered unselfconsciously between islands of coherence and incoherence, paused awhile at one interesting bank of thought, hopped over to another and then came back again to the previous one, simply to take off on a tangent again. I was the eager traveler whose weltanschauung swung fluidly from the traditional to the contemporary and back. That flash of comprehension and its accompanied sense of liberation- I realized gratefully, in a homey Bodhi moment – was to me, the avowed purpose of KMB 2016-17.
Musings at leisure, quite naturally, lead to jottings at work. While the spirit of enquiry hovered between the traditional and the contemporary standpoint, I stumbled, quite inadvertently, on the mottled path of the Indie muse. From the early twenties, a departure from a traditional platform was termed Indie. Originally applied to film production companies, the word Indie – short for independent- came to be adopted by non-conformist labels in music, theatre and much later, fashion. In the modern sense, the term reappeared in the nineties to represent a sub-culture of non-mainstream fashion sensibility, vintage and thrift store-bought clothing and accessories, organic and artisanal foods, progressive political views and alternative lifestyles. The Indie muse in fashion, encapsulates the qualities of the sartorial iconoclast – free-spiritedness bordering on rebellion, recklessness bordering on irreverence and a spirit of adventure bordering on daredevilry. She decides her own style. She makes her own rules. Society’s statutes are valiantly defied. Wardrobe mandates are summarily dismissed. Fashion pundits may take a hike!
Set against the backdrop of street-art at the Biennale, our photo-story explores the concept of the Indie muse in an Indian context. A benign and mild mannered collection of tunics took on a different hue with a ragtag alliance of begged (from the daughter), borrowed ( from the design team ), and stolen (again from the daughter ) accessories. A string of pompoms from Vishwanath Gali in Benares , a parrot-green and rani-pink umbrella from Chandpole Bazaar in Jaipur, mirror-worked tassels from Pushkar, vintage scarves from Chandni Chowk, a tote bag that had seen more lives than a cat and a pair of boots bought braving the end-of-the season stampede at the local mall; each found its way to our caravan with a story to speak of. The pursuit of fashion was beginning to seem like a crowd-sourced initiative! But yet, it is this initiative that brought together a mish-mash of separates -a legacy of the hippies- and engaged in an evocative retelling of crafts on a sultry January morning, in celebration of the Indie spirit hovering at the Kochi Muziris Biennale.
To see our photo-story, click here.