Critical Juncture brought together a collection of artistic responses to contemporary political and social issues in the state of Kerala, India and Poland - two geographically remote territories that both have been influenced by different notions and practices of communism.  As a starting point for the project, the curators adopted the term 'critical juncture', which is used in political and social sciences to describe a point of liquidity or a short phase during which it is possible to change the course of events. The participating artists investigated socio-political changes that have been happening in Poland and India, exploring, amongst others, issues of in/visibility, the importance of utopian thinking, forms of social self-organisation and mechanisms of exclusion.

The exhibition took place inside a former spice warehouse located in the historical Jew Street in Mattancherry, which forms part of today’s Kochi, as well as public spaces around town. Historically, while Fort Kochi used to be a fortified European settlement, Mattancherry was the trading hub for other foreign settlers, such as Jews, Arabs, and Armenians as well as for merchant communities from India, such as Gujaratis and Jains.  

Along with creating a space for critical thinking and exchange, Critical Juncture’s genuine engagement with the local community of Kochi proposed a model of exhibition, where artists worked with residents and supported local workers and workers' unions. The invited artists represented different generations, levels of recognition and social backgrounds and included both internationally and locally acclaimed artists.

The project was partly artist-led, which set a base for a collaborative approach and provided an alternative to the established hierarchies of the art world. An integral part of the project was the residency for the invited artists, creating an immersive environment to engage with the local community and either to produce new work or conduct in-depth research for future projects. The programme of the residency, from common accommodation and meals to research trips and university hosted seminars and workshops enabled both informal and structured interaction between the artists from the two countries, setting up the possibility of future collaborations.

Daily newspaper reading and debates over tea among workers that used to be a popular morning routine on the street corners of Kochi in the 60s and 70s was revisited by Sanchayan Ghosh in his work Street Side Reading. Don’t talk about Poland. ‘Don’t talk about Poland’ has been a popular phrase in Kerala since the 90s and is currently used to stop a person criticising Marxism from referring to examples inadequate to the local context. Using excerpts of texts by Indian artists, sociologists, performers and filmmakers the performance intended to generate a debate on the critical relationship of social life and art practice within a tea stall in Kochi. The Reversed Perspectives III: Locating the Marginal installation presented Ghosh's engagement with an open china clay mine landscape in Kharia, Birbhum in West Bengal. It refered to the life of the poet and performer Hara Kumar Gupta in the multilayered economic context of the various communities inhabiting a proposed ideal town (a nationalistic Nehruvian project), which failed to become a dreamland.  

The issues of self-organisation and labour invisibility were the subject of Tushar Joag’s Washing D’Arty Linen, a collaboration with the local washers' co-operative Vannar Sangam. The exhibition space was used to hang the linen from local hotels washed at the common washing facility; since the project took place during the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, the linen was mostly of the art tourists. As part of the project Joag was also raising funds to procure an industrial washing machine and a hydro extractor for the co-operative to make its continuing existence viable - currently the linen is washed by hand which is a very labour intensive process forcing younger people to migrate for work. The work was part of Joag’s mock corporate enterprise UNICELL.

Magda Fabiańczyk’s installation Where I Was Not was realised in collaboration with Roma community from the post-industrial city of Bytom in Upper Silesia in Poland, as part of an initiative by CCA Kronika. Fabiańczyk worked closely with local Roma community leader Angela Mirga whose words stating that she wished she could “enter areas she had never been to” inspired the design of the table cloth covering the round table in the gallery space. In Poland the table became a meeting place between the members of the Roma community and the representatives of local government, turning the gallery into a space where dialogue could be initiated and solutions sought to the ongoing problematic relationship between the Polish and Roma communities.

Oxygenator was a temporary public project by Joanna Rajkowska in the form of a 140-square metre artificial pond equipped with air-ozonating and fog-creating equipment, surrounded by greenery, shrubs and seats. It was built on Grzybowski Square in Warsaw, which was part of the Jewish Getto during the Nazi occupation of Poland. Various local social groups (office workers, Israeli student trips, pensioners and church-goers) and architectural layers (a synagogue, a Catholic church, corporate offices, communist-era apartment blocks and small local shops) remained disconnected despite occupying the same space. Rajkowska’s work offered a previously non-existent common space, opening it to interaction and communication, and simultaneously creating the potential to suspend everyday patterns and dominant social conventions.

The importance of resurrecting utopian thinking today is at the core of Alicja Rogalska's Dreamed Revolution video, based on documentation of the artist's recent performative project which took place in Łódź, Poland. Local activists were invited to take part in an experimental workshop and, hypnotized by a professional hypnotist in the presence of theatre audience, collectively articulate and share possible scenarios for a society of the future. Hypnosis was not only used as a meditative tool to increase focus and facilitate creativity, but was also meant to remove learned thinking barriers. The project was an attempt to move beyond the forms of subjectivity created by the ideological hegemony of global neoliberal capitalism which inform our rational thinking and affectivity.

The multiculturalism of Kochi was reflected in Sharmila Samant's installation The Kochi Weaves. A colourful tapestry comprised of fifty different colours represented not only the various communities who had migrated to Kochi centuries ago to benefit from the thriving spice trade business and still continued to reside in the city, but also the Kochi-Muziris Biennale visitors. Samant was collaborating with a weavers cooperative in the small town of Chendamangalam located in the historic Muziris area, known for its hand-woven fabrics that also represented the hand-loom industry of Kerala and working along Raju, a local master weaver and designer.

Urban renewal and overdevelopment propelled by the real estate boom in Kerala which have greatly impacted many historical townscapes set the context for Dinesh Shenoy's work. The artist's impressive collection of architectural drawings and paintings presents the material culture and heritage of the diverse communities in Kochi. The use of sepia lends the works a vintage look, referencing conventions of early photography. According to Shenoy an in-depth study of buildings can reveal intercultural exchanges, particularly visible in the case of religious architecture - for instance where dominant Hindu styles were employed to construct Christian, Islamic and Jewish temples.

Cop Siva's work reflected on the issues of exclusion, both in the context of Kochi's multicultural past and the present. Shiva traveled around Kochi in a rickshaw with a life-size cutout of Galaxy of Musicians, the iconic Keralan painting by Raja Ravi Verma, in a symbolic gesture to bring it back to the people. The original painting shows women dressed in regional attires playing local musical instruments and was inspired by the tradition of group studio portraits, which exclude common people. Shiva photographed people he met posing next to the painting and used the meetings as an opportunity to discuss the relevance of Kerala's historical cultural diversity depicted in the painting to their daily lives.

Łukasz Surowiec frequently works with socially or economically excluded such as the homeless, alcoholics and the unemployed to create new models of social relations. Black Diamonds is a series of coal sculptures in the shape of diamonds, each weighing 150 to 200 grams. They were created by job-seeking former coal miners in the Upper Silesia mining region of Poland. The project drawed attention to the still unresolved problem of unemployment which was the result of the decline of the Polish mining industry in the 90s, after the introduction of free market reforms. The proceeds from the sale of the sculptures were used to produce more diamonds.

Local textiles were also the subject of Gopakumar R's work. In The Lungi Series he used a common local textile called lungi, which was an unstitched piece of garment worn by males as a wraparound to represent images of daily lives in rural Kerala. It is typically the attire of working class people, farmers and daily wage labourers. Gopakumar used low quality lungi fabric to render striking portraits of people from these communities, acknowledging the culture, the labour, and the contribution of the often underrepresented class of the society.

Julita Wójcik’s Rainbow sculpture is a 9 meter tall and 26 meter long installation made from steel and artificial flowers located in the middle of Zbawiciela Square in central Warsaw. Initially simply standing for positive feelings it soon became associated with the LGBT movement in Poland, becoming a bargaining chip in the hands of activists and politicians. Several attempts to burn down the work led to vast coverage in the Polish media and initiated a national debate around LGBT rights. The recreation of Rainbow in the public space of Jew Town in Kochi, with flowers produced by a local women's co-operative, aimed to bring LGBT rights into the local debate. The structure was physically supported by a historic Jewish building in the Synagogue Lane, highlighting the importance of various minorities for Kochi.

Like much of Artur Żmijewski's work, Repetition explores the aesthetics of violence and segregation, where artist takes a role of a „laboratory scientist,” arranging quasi-therapeutic situations. The video records a re-enactment of the Stanford Prison Experi­ment – the famous 1971 psychological study of human behaviour in prison conditions, conducted by Professor Philip Zimbardo at the US Stanford University - realised by the artist in Warsaw in 2005. The original experiment had to be interrupted as groups playing roles of guards and inmates started manifesting behavioural patterns normally regarded as pathological.

Critical Juncture was initiated and curated by UK-based Polish artist Magda Fabiańczyk and Indian anthropologist Neelima Jeychandran with conceptual advice from Alicja Rogalska and support from Cressida Kocienski. It was produced by Win-Win Foundation ( Academic partners included Sree Sankaracharya University, Center for Public Policy Research in Kochi and Srishti School of Art and Design in Bangalore. Other partners included Kochi Muziris Biennale (, Clark House Initiative in Mumbai, FICA ( The Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art / in New Delhi and 1Shanthiroad in Bangalore ( Artists invited to take part in the residency programme included Sanchayan Ghosh, Tushar Joag, Joanna Rajkowska, Alicja Rogalska, Sharmila Samant, Cop Shiva, Łukasz Surowiec, Dinesh Shenoy, Gapakumar R and Julita Wójcik.


Critical Juncture was co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland, Polish Cultural Institute in New Delhi and private donations.