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Heights of creativity

With over 200 art-related biennales (an event happening every two years) being held globally, Pune isn’t far behind. The city is currently hosting a grassroots-oriented event that began on January 11 and will continue till January 21. Called Mohor, this first edition of the Pune Biennale aims to promote creative talent across arts, design, cinema, architecture, sculpture, environmental awareness and performing arts with the intent to make art more accessible to the public through various participatory activities. The theme of the inaugural edition is Celebrating Hills of Pune since hills give the city a distinct geographical and cultural identity, and occupy a significant public space in the city.


A giant puppet by Pratik Bhattacharya

People power
The Biennale includes exhibitions and interactive sessions between artists and the public. There are site-specific installations in public spaces and shows in galleries and halls. This apart, films, installations, sculptures, new media and performance art are also underway. Local artists will promote appreciation of arts through dialogue with the audience along with talks, seminars, screenings, music, workshops and educational activities.

Dr Kiran Ajit Shinde, Executive Director of the Pune Biennale and Principal of Bharati Vidyapeeth College of Architecture, adds, “Nearly 200 artists have come together for this event. The Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has also made several public venues available to us thanks to which there will be events at several venues simultaneously such as in the hilly areas of Pune, at art galleries and city malls.”


A sculpture installation of a child, Bottled tree installation

The event was conceptualised by Dr Shinde and gradually, several partners were roped in ranging from educational institutes to malls and galleries who voluntarily contributed and sponsored certain events or extended their venues for the event. For the Pune edition, Dr Shinde and his team (of almost 150 people) shortlisted various categories of events and drew upon their experience of visiting Biennales across the world.


Scorpion made from junk

“We were keen on taking art out of studios and galleries and into public spaces. While it was easy to get the artistes to support the concept, the challenge was getting the logistics right and to achieve a common ground. The event is for the people, of the people and by the people,” he elaborates.

Why the Biennale?
Stressing the need for the Biennale, Dr Shinde says that there was a need to address art and aesthetic visual elements in the city: “Pune is regarded as the state’s cultural capital as well as a student hub but the visual arts don’t get their due in comparison to performing arts. Neither is there enough patronage for public art in the city.”

Shinde cites examples of cities in Europe where plazas and piazzas display art backed by state sponsorship. He maintains that hills make for perfect spaces to host such events, as they are also critical to the environment. “It would be great if people envisioned hills, river banks or old heritage edifices and other public spaces for such cultural and visual arts-related events,” he reiterates.


A painting installa-tion, Wooden foliage

Focus on art
While the Pune Biennale is attempting to ensure that they reach out to a wider audience they are also focusing on not pedestrianising or diluting the art quotient. “The Pune Biennale is an alternative forum that celebrates diversity. We aren’t depending on any support to alleviate visual poverty. Instead, we are asking people across sections of society to witness the beauty of art in its many forms. Among visitors, we’ve had a father-son duo drop by the exhibition where the father works as a coolie — this shows the extent of it being a success with interest from the masses,” summarises Dr Shinde.
till January 21

Log on to punebiennale.org
Entry Free

How to get there
> Pune is connected by road and rail.
> ROAD: Drive down via the Mumbai Pune Expressway or take a shared taxi from the Mumbai Pune taxi stand at Dadar. Alternatively, regular bus services ply between both cities.
> RAIL: There are several Pune-bound trains that depart from Mumbai CST, Dadar and Thane. Log on to the Indian Railways website (irctc.co.in) for a detailed list of trains and their updated schedules.

How to move around
Autos are your best bet to take you around the various venues of the Pune Biennale. Hiring a private cab might also be a good idea to avoid extra stress of haggling over auto rates.

What to carry
> Light woollens
> Sturdy walking shoes, since some of the venues are on hill tops
> Shades
> Sunglasses
> Adequate bottled drinking water
> Camera
> Binoculars to capture the stunning views of the city from the hills
> Light eatables

Fact file
While biennales are named after the city, the Pune Biennale is named Mohur (translates into mango blossoms and stamps) to ensure the common man can relate to it.

Must-attend
> Dialogue on envisioning hills as public spaces
(January 18 at IUCAA)
> Generation
D-Design for School Students
(January 19-20 at PL Deshpande Garden)
> Eco walk
(January 19, Taljai)
> Nature Yoga sessions
(January 19, Chaturshringhi)
> Screening of short films
(January 19, Indradhanushya Environment Centre)
> Graffiti, wall painting and sketching
(January 19, Chaturshringhi)
> Folk orchestra and folk dance
(January 19, Taljai)
> Macro photography workshop
(January 19, Taljai)
> Sculpture talk on knowing the hills
(January 19, Parvati)
> Arts and crafts bazaar
(January 19, Malaka Spice, Koregaon Park)
> Floating sky lanterns
(January 20, Taljai)
Entry: Free, though prior registration is necessary for certain sessions 

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