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PEPPER HOUSE LIBRARY

More formally known as the Laboratory of Visual Arts (LaVA), the Pepper House library is the brainchild of Bose Krishnamachari, president of KBF.

PEPPER HOUSE DESIGN SHOP

“I was convinced that such an event would be ideal for Fort Kochi and its regeneration as an art destination.” - Isaac Alexander

PEPPER HOUSE CAFE
‘METROPOLIS’ BY LUBNA CHOWDHARY

Lubna Chowdhary’s multi-object installation, ‘Metropolis,’ made using over 1000 handmade clay sculptures is at display at Pepper House as part of KMB 2018

`THREE DECIMAL POINTS \ OF A MINUTE \ OF A SECOND \ OF A DEGREE`

A multi-part, immersive installation by artist Bharti Kher

`CATCH A RAINBOW II` BY TEMSÜYANGER LONGKUMER

`Catch a Rainbow II` by Temsüyanger Longkumer on display in the Pepper House courtyard

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Showcase 31 Jan 2019

Kochi’s Pepper House – From dockside warehouses to country’s cutting edge arts centre

A permanent and an integral fixture of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Pepper House has a little bit of everything for everyone. A meeting point for artists and masses alike, it operates with the sole purpose of starting and engaging in conversations about art, culture and everything in between.

A few steps away from Aspinwall House, Kochi-Muziris Biennale(KMB)’s main venue, Pepper House on Kalvathi Road is one of the most interesting spaces in the country that lends itself to arts in various ways. Once you enter the lanky corridor of the complex, on your right, there is a design shop where the tryst of Pepper House with art and design begins. The shop features a curated collection of interesting, homegrown lifestyle brands in India and of independent zines and unique stationery by visual artists.

PEPPER HOUSE LIBRARY

More formally known as the Laboratory of Visual Arts (LaVA), the Pepper House library is the brainchild of Bose Krishnamachari, president of KBF.

On your left exists a library filled with fascinating titles encompassing various art forms including Fine Art, Photography, Films, and more (we have stumbled upon some truly rare gems here). More formally known as the Laboratory of Visual Arts (LaVA), the Pepper House library is the brainchild of Bose Krishnamachari, president of KBF (Kochi Biennale Foundation). “Bose offered to have the LaVA as a ‘permanent installation’ at Pepper House. It is open to public and is a great resource for anyone interested in visual arts,” says Isaac Alexander, co-founder of Pepper House.

PEPPER HOUSE DESIGN SHOP

“I was convinced that such an event would be ideal for Fort Kochi and its regeneration as an art destination.” - Isaac Alexander

PEPPER HOUSE CAFE

The library also metamorphoses itself into a workshop space sometime: most recently, they conducted a perfume-making workshop here. It continues to grow and evolve with every new installment of the festival that helped launch it. For KMB 2019, for example, the library is hosting one of the Infra Projects called ‘Sister Library’ by artist and activist Aqui Thami. Separated by a carpeted area, Sister Library, a travelling library of one hundred books from Thami’s own collection that focuses solely on women’s writing, found an apt place inside LaVA.

The alley further leads to a small cafe on the left, overlooking a tranquil green courtyard that has lend itself to some spectacular installations over the years as part of KMB. The entire complex actually comprises of two historic dockside warehouses, one facing the street and other the water. “The building was originally built by the Portuguese around the mid-16th century. The Portuguese dominated the spice trade (mainly pepper) from Kerala in the 16th and 17th century before the Dutch came in. This building had warehouses on the ground floor, offices on the upper floor, and the dockside area for loading the ships. The central courtyard probably served as a space for drying the spices,” reveals Alexander.  

‘METROPOLIS’ BY LUBNA CHOWDHARY

Lubna Chowdhary’s multi-object installation, ‘Metropolis,’ made using over 1000 handmade clay sculptures is at display at Pepper House as part of KMB 2018

Cut to the present, one corner of the ground floor and the first floor of this colossal complex houses rooms where art exhibits are held. “The idea of a Biennale in Kochi was a grand one, but there was a lack of available spaces. I was convinced that such an event would be ideal for Fort Kochi and its regeneration as an art destination,” says Alexander. A fateful meeting in 2011 led to Alexander working, alongside founders of KBF, towards restoring the vintage family property as an exhibition space for its very first edition.

During KMB, each room usually features works by one artist. This year, for example, a huge vertical stretch of a room on the first floor proudly displays artist Lubna Chowdhary’s highly ambitious ‘Metropolis’, which started in 1991 and consists of over 1000 handmade clay sculptures. The room, like the others on the first floor, is filled with bountiful natural light and views of the water that adds interesting layers to Chowdhary’ glass encased work.    

The space also hosts KBF’s one-of-a-kind initiative, the Pepper House Art Residency programme. “The Pepper House Art Residency program is an important program that runs through the year. The curatorial process for the residency is undertaken by a panel at the Biennale Foundation, our partner for this program along with HCL foundation and the Goethe Institute,” mentions Alexander.

`THREE DECIMAL POINTS \ OF A MINUTE \ OF A SECOND \ OF A DEGREE`

A multi-part, immersive installation by artist Bharti Kher

Pepper House has had the task of delivering an experience embedded in the arts ever since its inception, and in its short yet busy history, the cultural hub has executed this quite well. Apart from its permanent fixtures, the space has also been hosting various workshops and events such as non-fiction comics workshop, artist talks, summer camp for children, first edition of Maker’s Collective (where a few independent creators from craft, design and sustainability got together), among other things.

And it seems like things are only going to get more interesting in the future. “There are many interesting projects in discussion. One that I am particularly excited about is the Design Biennale meant to debut in 2021. A design residency is also on the cards,” Alexander tells us.

`CATCH A RAINBOW II` BY TEMSÜYANGER LONGKUMER

`Catch a Rainbow II` by Temsüyanger Longkumer on display in the Pepper House courtyard

A visit to the Pepper House easily gobbles up an entire day. It’s easy to get lost in and utterly charmed by the varied experiences that the space offers – from reading to shopping to eating to experiencing art in its so many forms to enjoying the abundant serenity. And we are most definitely not complaining.

Kochi-Muziris Biennale is on view until 29 March, 2019.

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