Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Straddling Two Continents

Colombian artist Pedro Gómez-Egaña talks about his first impressions of Kochi, as well as his art and life in Norway

Photo by Ratheesh Sundaram 

By Shevlin Sebastian

A day after his arrival in Kochi, recently, Colombian artist Pedro Gómez-Egaña, has a dazed look on his face. “There are so many impressions,” says the Norway-based artist, on his first visit to Kerala. “It is going to take me a while to assimilate it.”

But he is much taken up by the dynamism of the city. “Kochi has a particular rhythm,” he says. “By rhythm, I mean, the intensity with which people interact with each other. Like the way they navigate the traffic. The pedestrian rhythm is slow and relaxed and the people walk with a beautiful confidence. The traffic, on the other hand, is frenetic. Although people told me it is aggressive, I did not find it so. There seems to be an interwoven communication between the pedestrians and the car and bus drivers.”

Pedro is one among the ‘First 25’ artists who have been announced as participants for the third Kochi Biennale, which runs from December 12, 2016 to March 29, 2017.

His work is a mix of installation and performance-based works. One striking work is called 'The Chariot of Greenwich'. It is a wooden contraption, with two large wheels, and several gears and was inspired by the Chinese.

The Chinese built this chariot in 2600 BC,” says Pedro. “It has a complex set of gears and was built in such a way that an arrow always pointed to the South. And it always moved around in a circle. We are also moving, but, many times, it seems to be in circles.”

Like the Chinese chariot, all inventions have their pluses and minuses. “According to French philosopher Paul Virilio, when you invent the ship, you invent the shipwreck,” he says. 

“When you invent the plane, you invent the plane crash. And when you invent electricity, you invent electrocution. Every technology has its own negativity.”

Meanwhile, when asked about his life in Bergen, Norway, Pedro says, “A part of me resonates very strongly with Norwegians. I feel at home. They have a romantic streak. That is very Latin American. They also believe in contemplation and solitude and have a beautiful relationship to light and darkness.”

This darkness lasts for six months. Not surprisingly, Pedro, from sunny Colombia, misses the sunlight. “Even if my brain does not feel it, my body does,” he says. “My doctor said that since I was born in the tropics, it will get worse every year. I try to go away. Or I have to take Vitamin D tablets, fish oil and lie under sun lamps. But it is still very tough. The nice thing is that everybody is depressed. And there is a collective agreement that we are going to be moody for the next six months.”

Despite this, Pedro has been working steadily. His works have been shown at the Performa 13 at New York, the Bergen Assembly Triennale, La Kunsthalle in France, the Brussels and Marrakech Biennials, and the Colomboscope in Sri Lanka.

Since he is a frequent international traveller, he is well-placed to identify the global trends in society. “The media is the most powerful force in the world today,” he says. “However, for the first time in history, we not only consume news, but we produce it on our own and share it. As a result, life is being constantly interrupted by SMS messages, Facebook and Whatsapp texts. There is a saturation of information. So, people are in a constant state of distraction. They are unable to engage with anything deeply. It is affecting the brain, relationships and our perception of time.”  

(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

No comments:

Post a Comment