Kochi: Can decaying elements from nature lead one to explore ideas of death and grief? Yes, if young Veda Thozhur Kolleri’s project at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is anything to go by.
At the art festival’s Pepper House venue in Fort Kochi, Veda’s installation is an assemblage of weather-worn materials salvaged from wetlands. “I have always had the urge to collect,” says the 29-year-old artist. “These objects I would collect are things you don’t see too much on a campus.”
Why specify campus? Well, it was during her MFA programme at Shiv Nadar University in Dadri (east of Delhi) Veda began to work with organic remains in various states of degradation. What all? Parts of trees that were shed, soil, dried leaves, cut grass, dead plants, animal bones, quills and hives.
“I’d collect these while exploring my surroundings on foot. Such trips help me develop very specific associations with certain objects. They became my medium of work,” says the artiste. “The length of their life also interests me. I use soil and dried leaves. I rearrange them to make large-scale drawings or patterns on the ground. Wind or rain too might help them settle.”
Veda’s biennale work ‘Rigor Mortis’ is an assemblage of materials from her time in Dadri as well as her encounters during her month of onsite work in Kochi ahead of the 108-day event that began on December 12 last year. “Having been in Kerala during the monsoons, my interactions with the sea and residues of the landscape, too, have found their way,” says the Chennai-born artist about her mixed-media installation.
“The things I generally collect are things that one would want to hold on to or something that one would want to think there isn’t enough of,” she adds.
Using short video clips, photography, drawing, text and collected objects, Veda tries to create an environment — one with rot, decline and preservation that rehearses an anticipation of loss. “It’s almost like you think if you practice something enough, you will get better on it. So the whole idea of rehearsal was something I thought it through surrounding myself with these dead objects that are dying or decaying,” she explains.
The artist tries to create a ‘preferred’ environment in which objects are picked for the traces they carry and, as a rehearsal, creates for itself the fiction. The idea is to make everyone come in term with the urban realities, she explains. “The flip side of it is that by walking through these spaces, you sort of encounter more of death and loss. That is when it was no more rehearsal but became actual realities,” points out Veda, who uses these elements as metaphor for survival.