Kochi Biennale: Dutch artist plans a summit of terror outfits, sparks row

published on January 1, 2013

The ongoing Kochi-Muziris Biennale has landed in trouble over Dutch artist Jonas Staal’s plan to conduct a summit of banned Indian and international terror outfits. Staal is already under police eye over his installations, which are billboards depicting the flags of banned outfits from across the world.

Kochi city Police Commissioner M R Ajith Kumar said an inquiry has been ordered into Staal’s installations. “We will take action if his installations are against the law. We are also inquiring into the proposed new world summit of banned outfits in March. Appropriate action will be taken if the event is illegal,” he said.

Police sources said the summit would not be allowed if it was meant for a gathering of banned outfits. A legal opinion has been sought on taking action against the artist, said sources. However, the presence of Kerala Home Secretary Sajan Peter, former RAW chief Hormis Tharakan and former Kerala chief secretary Lizzy Jacob as members of the Biennale trust makes the issue delicate for police.

Staal is planning to mark the end of Biennale in March with the third new world summit, ‘History according to resistance movements’. The first new world summit was held in Berlin in May and the second in Leiden, Netherlands, on December 29.

Claiming that the plan was legal, Staal earlier stated that it was dedicated to providing alternative parliaments hosting organisations that currently find themselves excluded from democracy, for example by means of so-called international designated terrorist lists.

His installations at the Biennale include 45 billboards depicting flags of banned outfits. He said he would invite all banned outfits to take part in the summit to air their ideologies. The representatives invited at the New World Summit are all based in India. “Our summit is legal. We seek to enlarge the space within which we explore the concept of democracy but we do this within the space provided by Indian law,” said Staal.

Biennale director of communications Michelangelo Bendandi said Kochi-Muziris Biennale was assured by Staal that the legality of the installation and performance had been researched and that neither involved any infringement. “Biennale is an international art event. An artist is free to display his works. We are not aware of the police investigation,” said Bendandi.

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