Kochi may miss rebel artist Ai Weiwei as China sees red
Those wishing to draw some more inspiration from the Chinese, in addition to the centuries-old "Cheenavala" fishing nets that line the seacoast of this port town, may be in for some disappointment.
The organisers of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale art extravaganza, which started Wednesday 12/12/12, are still not sure if Ai Weiwei, the famed Chinese artist who designed the "Birds Nest" Beijing National Stadium for the 2008 Olympics, will make it to the three-month-long event.
He has been under house arrest ever since he took pot shots at the Chinese government in late October with a four-minute parody on YouTube based on the original Gangnam style musical of South Korean rapper PSY.
Ai's version went viral on the net, with close to a billion hits.
In the horse-trot parody, Ai has ridiculed China's otherwise overt moves to encourage creativity and artistic imagination, while also refusing to let go of its strict laws on censorship - something which apparently offended Beijing.
Three months ago, the curators of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale - Bose Krishnamachari and Riyas Komu - had met with Ai at a similar event at Gwangju in South Korea and had extended an invitation that was readily accepted.
Ai said he was looking forward to Kochi and wanted his work to draw inspiration from the excavations near Kochi since five years ago that have led to the discovery of the ancient pre-biblical seaport and urban town of Muziris.
The organisers of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale have in any case lined up a few video works of Ai to be shown during the three-month extravaganza - if that can serve as some consolation.
In September, it was announced that Ai, Indian photographer Dayanita Singh, South African artist Santu Mofokeng and French-German artist Romuald Karmakar would represent Germany at the Venice Biennale 2013.
Ai had in July 2011 accepted a post at a German art university.
(Arvind Padmanabhan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)