Students' Biennale 2016

The Kochi Biennale Foundation, in collaboration with The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art (FICA) and Foundation for Indian Art and Education (FIAE) has developed Students’ Biennale (SB), an exhibitory platform which runs parallel to the Kochi Biennale. SB reaches out to government art colleges across the country and is invested in using the charge and possibilities of a temporary, global Biennale platform to energise art schools and art production across the country. The research for the Biennale is conducted by 15 curators who work with 3-4 schools each.

In this platform that brings together art pedagogy and art practice, exhibition sites and art school structures, there is an emphasis on training young curators as much as reaching young art students and affecting change in art institutions. Even as the exhibitory platform focuses on three artists per school or one collective project (this is the brief given to the curators) we realise there is something much greater at stake than bringing a few individual artists together on an exhibition platform. Via the curators, we imagine a rhizomatic structure coming into place which is about forming networks and solidarities, about linking up institutions, students, alumni, professors etc and about forging a deep understanding of the ‘contemporary’ in different places.

The first edition was held in 2014 and in 2016 we are continuing the same process reaching around 55 art schools (46 art schools plus another 9 private art schools) which are spread across the country – from Imphal to Jabalpur, from Kumbakonam to Surat etc. The histories of these institutions are complex and diverse - the 200 yr old colonial institutions, the national schools that came up in the early 20th century, the post independence institutions, the vocational polytechnic centres, the newly set up art schools of the last two decades etc.

FICA’s role is focussed on supporting and monitoring the young curators visiting the different art schools. FICA’s role is to organise workshops for the curators and support the process, to liaison with an advisory board that has also been put together of artists, educators and scholars, who the curators can turn to for guidance and feedback. We will also offer inputs on developing small research projects with the students, conducting workshops. Even as the focus remains on the exhibition site at Kochi, we would like to create some positive change in the schools. The curators will also get opportunities to participate in 3 curatorial workshops over 2016 where they will be provided with readings and lectures by experienced curators and pedagogues to collectively develop different aspects of the curatorial process,


After a year-long process that began in November 2015 the Students’ Biennale 2016 opened on December 13, 2016 at Kochi. Titled Later the atelier ate her the exhibition is all about staggering numbers –15 curators, 55 art schools, 400 artists and seven venues! 

We literally began the process of Students’ Biennale as the 139 days of FTII protests came to an end choosing our team of 15 curators in October end 2015. It has been a particularly volatile year for educational institutions. SB has materialised against the larger backdrop of churning taking place across the country, and the world, regarding fundamental questions of the future of public institutions, education and democracy. 

Students’ Biennale signals a very important direction that a Biennale can take – which is using the potential of a global temporary exhibition to create a more sustained and long term change in art education.  Through the course of this project we have reached out to many art institutions in remote parts of the country. For an organisation like FICA, which has been involved in art education, SB is a unique opportunity to work at a national scale and bring forth the potentialities of young practitioners, institutions and places.  

SB is mediated through the research, insights and interests of 15 young curators as they encounter art students developing their practices in diverse settings. The past year has been a peer learning process where the curators and students are identifying and signalling, through various strategies, some key questions that young practitioners face today around the role of the artist, the changing contours of art practice, the threat of censorship, the terms of engagement with different publics, among others. 

FICA’s role has been towards mentoring this group of curators and supporting them with workshops. The curators in turn have initiated further interactive platforms with students to galvanise collaborative modes of art making and research.  At the core of it is an attempt to rethink the potential of the art student - not as an insulated individuated practitioner but one who is at embedded within a larger world.  A resilient creative individual who intervenes in the system from a position of strength.

The exhibition it is a work in progress.  For the opening day alone 130 odd students made their way to Kochi and others will visit in the coming months. 
There will be constant interventions in the exhibition sites as well as city at large.  One of the venues – Fadi Hall – has been set aside for workshops and other interactions. SB remains a growing forum and we look forward to a seminar in February where we can again come together to review what this process has been. 
Some links on the exhibition:





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 Performance titled 2016 by students of Institute of Music and Fine Arts, Srinagar at SB

Performance titled 2016 by students of Institute of Music and Fine Arts, Srinagar at SB