Installation by Anoma Wijewardene for Colombo Art Biennale 2016

How will 2016 be recorded in the annals of the future? An annus horribilis of historic proportion perhaps? Will this be the pivotal year when notions of humanity, integrity and liberal ideals succumbed to the base instincts of our lesser selves? As I watched with growing disbelief and alarm the events of 2016 develop, so this installation germinated and took shape in my imagination, my sketchbooks and notebook. The artwork was initially inspired by the migration and refugee crisis unleashed on the world by war, poverty and famine, with desperate people seeking security and survival; and the following political shockwaves that reverberated throughout the globe, creating a volte face for values, morality, ethics and societal  norms.

The art is a response to the rise and normalization of the unconscionable, the divisive and destructive forces of intolerance, hatred and bigotry. Perhaps Sri Lanka which has so recently suffered the pain of conflict and loss, can be the beacon of hope, of values, of inclusion? Can human beings surmount our base greed, and biologically programmed need to compete for ourselves, and instead compete to improve our society and environment?

The installation comprises many congruent elements and complex layers.

The primary medium, that of transparent fabric, references the fragility of home, refugee tents, Calais jungles, and alludes to the idea that walls and borders are really a fragile construct of man, especially 'when we live in a borderless world where we can share anything, anywhere, in real time.' The perforations reiterate the need for openness since everything today is porous and leaking. The images on the transparent fabric remind us of the fragility of nature and the environment. Not only was this the year of hot political events, but as climate change accelerates, it was the hottest year ever on record.

The viewer is invited to step on to the floor and engage with Mi Casa. It hints at the need for reflection and contemplation, perhaps reminding us that while we are treading water much is being lost, perhaps also to caution that every step we take resonates, and has eddying repercussions.

The bowl at the centre channels the sun, source of all energy, the idea of the holy grail, the cup of loving kindness, maitreeya, a receptacle for thoughts.

The spiraling crystal ball alludes to questions of how this new unfathomable future will unfold, creating illusions and intangibility, in a spinning, out of control globe.

The accompanying concertina installation documents the creative process. It echoes the theme of the installation, the production itself being a diverse journey of action in unison.

Finally we come to the inspirational spoken and written words of thinkers and spiritual leaders from every persuasion, period of time and place, calling us to reach for our higher selves.

In 2006 Sri Lanka's foremost intellectual Gananath Obeyesekere, wrote for the exhibition Quest. The words are as apposite now, exactly ten years later, as they were then, and urges all thinkers and creators -

‘to raise their collective voice and jolt the public conscience, showing us the terrifying discriminations we have invented and hopefully    persuading us to resurrect the gentleness, our feminine nature, one might even say, that many of us have suppressed.

Then perhaps we can go to sleep.'

15th March, 2017 Art | Conceptual