INTERACTIVE TRADITIONS AND ECOLOGICAL ART
Poornima & Chinthaka Thenuwara
Poornima Jayasinghe and Chinthaka Thenuwara, are practicing artists and inventors who are the founding members of the Collective of Contemporary Artists (CoCA). In their collaboration, this artist couple engage in a long-standing discussion that a work of art is both related and representative of the state of the mind, society and environment. Art has the potential to operate in creating a sense of connect between multiple worlds and diverse audiences. Poornima & Chinthaka have partaken and maintained a prominent presence in innumerable local and international exhibitions, showcases and festivals such as Cinnamon Colomboscope and the Colombo Art Biennale over several years.
Traditional Currents in the Way of Art
Poornima and Chinthaka argue that the functional and performative aspects of interactive art have been present in daily life through traditional roots that stem from the history of agriculture and folk cultures. “Elements of our lives can be described as a series of performative actions, day-to-day musings to sustain and exist” stated Poornima illustrating that art has always been a part of human evolution used to adorn, decorate and utilise everyday spaces for our own intentions and purposes. In this regard, people ought to be able to relate to art and design as long as it is a part of their daily lives. Rebelling against the nature of detachment found in contemporary art spaces and galleries, as artworks are objectified in solitude whilst the journey visit becomes akin to a pilgrimage, COCA’S philosophy is to celebrate the complimentary and close-knit nature of art and human lives.
CoCA uses interactive art as a medium of work within a sustainable context. The collective philosophy ascribes to being a research-based practice, often collaborating and working with people from non-art backgrounds, in order to create unconventional art objects that have a strong root in the historical tradition of possessing function and responsibility, albeit in a different context. Recycling toys in rehabilitation centres as part of an educative programme for children, for example, yields the opportunity to combine multiple fields of study. The recycling of broken toys bears the significance of ecological renewal, and it is in this regard that art is used to reproduce the imaginative interests of children, subjects such as mathematics and science, in the act of producing new and alternative products out of broken histories. In turn this focus would grow into the attitudes and positive development of the young minds as they experience the numerous processes of maturing into adults. The understanding of such interactive elements serves as a platform and resource of innovative capability in the midst of historical and modern traditions. Day to day life bears little difference from the reassembling, categorization and storage of artistic material. CoCA utilises living forms of art and design, such as tools to shape and re-purpose functional objects. The residency space built by the collective could be described as an organic construct, fashioned out of a multitude of recycled and vernacular intentions. The collective’s practice of lifestyle is no different from their making of art - it is an embodiment of the many different life processes that built the residency space they in which they live, maintain and help it grow into something that defines what their stance stands for.
Ecology & Sustainability in Interactive Art
The central intention of utilising aspects of ecology in art is explored further in CoCA’s practice through the statement that seeks to bridge the gaps between traditional practices and contemporary art. CoCA in this regard uses interactive art as a platform to bring about more sustainable opportunities and increased awareness. As the recycling of toys bears elements of ecological renewal, so do farmers know their subjects of history, geography and the sciences in a highly practical manner. Art creates a connection between a multitude of disciplines, and the collective’s philosophy is to further blend the boundaries of public spaces, interactive art forms, and non-art practices. “Creativity is prevalent in all fields, and is most functional when defined and driven by necessity” stated Chinthaka whilst illustrating the enrichment of art when it has practical value. This is why CoCA strives to encourage collaborations with an entire gamut of practitioners ranging from ayurvedic doctors, inventors, local farmers, sociologists, and software developers, who are all brought together by an ecological philosophy of sustainable practice.