Kochi-Muziris Biennale: Artist Destroys His Art To Protest Against Labour Unions

03/04/2015 7:10 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
STRDEL via Getty Images
Visitors wait to see the installation work 'Erase' by Bangalore based artist Srinivasa prassad at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012 exhibition in Kochi on December 13, 2012. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale will span over 3 months from December 12, 2012 to March 13, 2013 and will feature the works of over 80 major artists from more than 24 countries. This is the first-ever biennale to be held in India. AFP Photo/ STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

What would compel an artist to destroy his own work? To destroy a work of art he lovingly pored over for weeks, months? But artist Waswo X Waswo, who had participated in the recently-concluded Kochi-Muziris Biennale, did just that.

Waswo, who was a part of the show titled Sleeping Through The Museum, uploaded a video on his YouTube channel where he talks about the difficulties he faced while moving his artworks to and from the venue.

"This is a testament to the unions in Kerala, and what they do to business; and how they destroy business in the state," says a visibly angry Waswo in the video as he picks up one of his artworks and throws it on the ground with force.

"The unions here basically function as mobs, surrounding a truck and refusing anyone to load or unload until their demands are met...asking as much as Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 to load one truck. Intimidation and threats of violence and property damage are employed. The only way I could get them to even start a negotiation was to threaten to destroy my entire show rather than ship it. Thankfully, this started a process of negotiation and an eventual agreement on more equitable terms," writes Waswo.

The labour unions, particularly in the loading and unloading sector, are heavily politicised and notorious for a practice known as Nokkukooli--literally the fee for watching. This means that you have no choice to do the work yourself. If you did, you still have to pay the labourers for standing and watching as they consider the job to be their right. During this year's Biennale, there were several reports of laborers and truck drivers arm-twisting artists while transporting their works to and from venues. The biennale team, made up of local and national experts, had to go through these pressures on a daily basis.

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