Singapore artist Shubigi Rao to helm South Asia's largest visual art biennale in 2020

Mumbai-born Singapore artist Shubigi Rao, 43, was Singapore's sole representative at the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
Mumbai-born Singapore artist Shubigi Rao, 43, was Singapore's sole representative at the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.ST PHOTO: JASMINE CHOONG

SINGAPORE - Singapore artist Shubigi Rao will curate the fifth edition of South Asia's biggest visual arts event, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which begins on Dec 12, 2020. She was the unanimous choice of an eight-member selection panel "for her exceptional acumen and inventive sensibilities", according to a press announcement on Thursday (May 9) at the Venice Biennale.

Similar to the Venice Biennale, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale is the showcase of a historic port city and exhibits contemporary art across several venues. It is the place to gawk at work from star artists, or discover new talent. The Kochi Biennale is traditionally helmed by an artist and organised by the non-profit charitable trust, the Kochi Biennale Foundation.

Mumbai-born Rao, 43, was Singapore's sole representative at the just-ended fourth edition, which ran from Dec 12 last year to March 29. Her video installation created a fictional history of book smugglers in the Indian port city.

In a statement, she says of her role as curator of the next edition: "Biennales are sometimes floating cities that are unmoored from their locality or regionality. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale is rooted in the intertwined histories and cultural multiplicities of Kochi, while providing a crucial platform for larger discourse of the critical, political and social in artistic practices."

"To shift the lens through which we read the spectacle of exhibition, we must reposition discourse and practice through acknowledging intersecting contexts."

Rao is known for long-term, multi-disciplinary projects such as her ongoing work about libraries and books which she executes in 10-year cycles. For example, in 2016 she self-published a book titled Pulp: A Short Biography Of The Banished Book, which was later part of an installation on banished libraries.

The book was nominated for the 2018 Singapore Literature Prize (though it lost to 'Others' Is Not A Race by Melissa De Silva). The installation, titled Pulp: A Short Biography Of The Banished Book. Vol I: Written In The Margins (2014-2016), last year took home a $15,000 juror's choice award at the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize. This is a triennial honour organised by the Singapore Art Museum and sponsored by the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation.

 

One of the judges for that award was the co-founder of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Bose Krishnamachari. He describes Rao as "a brilliant artist" and says she was selected as curator "for her exceptional talents".

To find out more about the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, visit kochimuzirisbiennale.org