Dissent and Discourse at the Kochi Biennale


Kochi:  To create an illusion of freedom of speech is among the more insidious ways to stifle dissent in society, according to Shashi Tharoor MP, former Union Minister, who was part of a discussion at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale here the other day.

‘’There are many ways dissent can be stifled. The more insidious and sophisticated ways are more dangerous because they preserve the illusion of freedom of speech,” the MP from Thiruvanananthapuram said.

He was part of a discussion, ‘Dissent and Discourse’ organised by the BM Anand Foundation as a collateral of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. The discussion aimed to explore the notion of dissent and its significance in public discourse, creativity and progress.

Dr. Tharoor was joined on the panel by Riyas Komu, Co-founder, KMB; politician Shazia Ilmi and Alka Pande, art curator. The panel was moderated by Aditi Anand, biographer and writer.

Speaking from an artist’s perspective, Komu said dissent could be viewed in a multilayered manner and the Kochi Muziris Biennale has succeeded in creating “a site where many discourses can happen.”

“For us, as a Foundation, the focus is to celebrate the diversity and cosmopolitanism of the historic Muziris region. I think Kochi is sort of doing a cultural acupuncture which can benefit the nation culturally in the long run,” Komu said.

Tharoor referred to Gandhi’s sense of justice where he was ready to accept the punishment meted out to dissenters but “today people want to dissent without the punishment.”

“Within any framework of freedom, dissent and dialogue are an essential part of society. I think like Leonardo da Vinci says nothing strengthens authority like silence so the need to speak out is important. Freedom and dissent are two sides of the same coin,” Shazia Ilmi said.

Alka Pande, who curated the first exhibition of BM Anand in New Delhi earlier this year, said the artist was “absolutely fearless in his language of art and never played to the market and was absolutely honest to his craft.”

The BM Foundation’s co-founders, Neeraj Gulati and Kriti Anand, who is the daughter of artist BM Anand, were also present at the function.