December 14, 2016 12:28:28 am
Italian artist Daniele Galliano was in Europe when he heard of demonetisation in India. The Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2016 (KMB) participant was advised by friends to “arrange for currency” before he landed in Kochi on December 8. But at the stopover in Abu Dhabi he managed to exchanged less than 100 dollars. “It is a small amount. I am here till January 2 and will run out of cash soon. I will have to arrange for something then,” he says. Seated in a room at Aspinwall House — the main venue of the Biennale — that has his canvases on display, the artist says, “A credit card isn’t of much use here, it is not accepted in most local stores.”
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Featuring works of 97 artists from 31 countries, the cash crunch that follows demonetisation has affected the KMB in multiple ways. “The announcement came weeks before the Biennale was to open on December 12. We were setting works, preparing the venue and suddenly we did not know how to pay the hundreds of labourers, workers, cleaners, carpenters and volunteers who are all paid daily. Several of them have no bank accounts. The vendors told us that the labourers will only come if the daily wages were paid, so setting up works was delayed,” says Treessa Jaifer, Chief Financial Officer, Kochi Biennale Foundation.
A student volunteer from Calicut, who was advised by her seniors to travel to Kochi during the Biennale, is reconsidering her initial plan to stay the entire duration of the 108-day Biennale. “It is a bit chaotic with no cash available,” says she. Another volunteer adds, “Several artists want to make small purchases, like colours or wood, from the local market to install their work, but with no cash that is difficult. The shopkeepers tell us that the Biennale has received crores from sponsors so why can’t they be paid. Of course, we have only Rs 2,000 notes and there is no smaller change available.”
While the Biennale has a card swipe machine to pay for the entry ticket priced at Rs 100, Jaifer says that the amount too was re-evaluated after demonetisation. “We were thinking of changing it to Rs 120 this year, to take care of the service tax, but then decided to retain it at Rs 100, so that there is no problem with small change,” says Jaifer.
With limited cash in his wallet, Slovenian poet Ales Steger is reviewing his plan to travel outside of Fort Kochi. “I am here with family but can’t move around with such little cash,” he says. On Tuesday, he managed to withdraw Rs 2,000 from an ATM machine right at the entrance of Aspinwall. “I am feeling very rich now,” he quipped. He was fortunate. The machine ran out of cash hours after it was recalibrated.
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