Navjot Altaf at Kochi Muziris Biennale 2014/15

Navjot Altaf is known for her sustained engagement with interactive / collaborative art practices. Since 1997 she has also been working in collaboration with indigenous artists and community members of Bastar in Chhattisgarh, Central India on Nalpar (hand pump sites) and Pilla Gudi/Temples for children projects that seek to situate artistic production within the fabric of community life. An early encounter with Marxism leading to her interest in feminism has been instrumental in shaping Altaf’s sensibilities as an artist.
Altaf’s interactive installation at the Kochi- Muziris Biennale titled ‘Mary wants to read a book’ (2014) is a built up space / a library,  to recognize significance of the literacy movement and library culture in Kerala. The work is based on the visual of ‘Study Charts 2,000 Years of Continental Climate Changes’.  This work is to be viewed from an ecological perspective / the web of life of which we are a part, a critique of hyper production and consumption which has continued to grow and led civilizations to estrangement from life-world experiences – resulting in climatic catastrophe.
Library that documents global rise in temperatures in the last 2000 years. Weaved into this narrative is an homage to Kerala’s library movement. Closely linked to left cultural activism, The library movement along with the state’s drive towards full literacy is widely considered a key ingredient in the success of the ‘Kerala-model of development’; marked by high social indicators and political participation despite comparatively low levels of industrialization and per capita income. The installation takes its form- that of a library from this history.  Comprised of more than two thousands of multi-coloured books made from recycled paper each with text from Altaf’s research. Work also includes audio and video.  the  library is the three dimensional model of a chart depicting 2000 years of continental temperature change on earth.Coded to correspond to a colour spectrum (with red and blue indicating the highest and lowest temperatures respectively), The chart documents temperature changes including the alarming rise of the last decades. By cross referencing this chronicle of an impending ecological disaster with an idealized version of a social progress within the largely unindustrialized state of Kerala, Altaf is perhaps suggesting / asking for an alternative, less ecologically punishing mode of development. 
The books that are part of the installation can be taken away by the audience in the last two weeks of the biennale.
The biennale will be taking place from Dec 2014 – March 2015.
More info at:

By Lena Felde

Lena is the Treasurer of Cultura21 Germany. She is studying Cultural Sciences (Mag. Art.) at Leuphana University Lüneburg, Germany.