Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Most Interesting People in The World

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 25 years of meeting celebrities, from many walks of life, one thing has become clear: the most interesting people are artistes. They are flamboyant, charismatic, and mesmerising. When they speak, with their animated faces and expressive gestures, it is difficult to tear oneself away from them.

Why is this so? I believe it is because they forge their own paths in life. They don't follow anybody. Nor do they have a hierarchy to climb. They create innovative works, thanks to a rich inner life.

And in this worldwide climate of intense religious fundamentalism, it is so heartening to know that many of them are liberals. They know that beneath the differences of caste, religion and nationality, all people have the same fears, anxieties, vulnerabilities and the eternal desire to love and to be loved.

So, it is with a heavy heart that one realises that the second edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale is coming to a close on March 29. So many artistes, curators, collectors, eminent people, and art lovers had come from all over the world to see it. Not all works were uniformly liked. Perhaps the most popular were Anish Kapoor's 'Descension', Gigi Scaria's 'Chronicle of the Shores Foretold', NS Harsha's 'Again Birth, Again Death', and Neha Choksi's video installation on global warming called 'Iceboat'.

The star, undoubtedly, was the sixty-something Anish Kapoor. He wore a crisp white shirt and jeans, and squired around his so-very-young girlfriend – the envy of quite a few middle-aged guys. Known to be short-tempered, he kept his cool as a BBC television interview took a long time to get underway, at Aspinwall House. The interviewer, a pretty woman, of Chinese origin, with bright red lips, looked so flustered at the delay that Anish could only give a look of sympathy.

And how can one forget the sight of Biennale founder Bose Krishnamachari standing under a tree, and speaking non-stop for 45 minutes about the event to 30 new entrants to the Indian Administrative Service? His passion and excitement for art was so evident on his face.

Then there was the European artist who, while giving an interview, was mightily distracted by a young foreign woman, in a black top and slacks, who was viewing his work. He was dying for the media interaction to come to an abrupt end, so that he could talk to her. Thankfully, the journalist obliged, because he understood a basic concept: how can a brain give logical answers when hormones are raging wildly?

Then there was the sight of the lissome Vanessa Branson, curator of the Marrakesh Biennale, and sister of billionaire businessman Richard Branson. Throughout the interaction, she kept on her sunglasses. But when the photographer requested her to take it off, she obliged, only to reveal a right eye that was swollen red – a possible victim of conjunctivitis. “I am so sorry,” she told the lensman. “But this has been with me for a couple of days.”

Finally, many thanks to the auto-rickshaw drivers at Fort Kochi. Before we get in, we would invariably say, “Please don't fleece us. We are local people. We can't pay the jacked-up rates.” Many took it in a sporting manner, and allowed us to pay the usual fare. It's called the mellowing effect of art.

(Published as a middle in The New Indian Express, South India) 

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