A look back at Colomboscope 2017

13 September 2017 - 63   - 0

Disused railway carriages sit rusting on the tracks; tall weeds cover the once busy tracks; grease , oil and grime line the floors of the platform with a dilapidated roof; old barrels and metal beams are strewn across the area; a sight you would expect to see in some long forgotten city. Yet here it was in the middle of bustling Mardana, the former Colombo Terminus Railway station.

But for the past seven days ( September 2 - 7),  this forgotten and neglected space saw more footfall in a week than it has for years, when the Cinnamon Colomboscope Art Festival took it over for its fifth edition.

By Shakya Wickramanayake and Kaveesha Fernando

Founded and conceptualized by EUNIC ( The European Union National Institute for Culture), Colomboscope, a multidisciplinary art festival, has been providing  contemporary artist in the island a platform and facilitating cross- cultural artistic exchange for over five years now. This year sees the festival being organized and curated by locals for the first time, with Cinnamon Hotels & Resort and John Keells Foundation as organizers, and Menika van der Poorten its curator.

Titled ‘Re/evolution’ the festival follows the central theme of  a planet in the midst of an environmental, and the need for sustainable development.  The festival’s program was an eclectic mix of talks presented by academics and professionals , films, environmental workshops, musical performances, curated city walks, and art exhibitions.

The multidisciplinary art exhibition which was held on all seven days had many interesting pieces, including a clay pot of water (the traditional ‘pin thaliya’ which was kept outside most Sri Lankan homes in days past) surrounded by their modern, polluting counterpart - the plastic bottle. The Sanni project which featured masks on mirrors with new ‘devils’ such as noise pollution, pesticides and deforestation - was also interesting.

The performances using the masks, costumes and song would undoubtedly impress if the masks alone did not. The talks focused on promising new ways which could be used to save the planet, while a workshop which asked participants to clear micro-plastic from a handful of soil made participants experience what environmentalists have been screaming about for decades - the amount of pollution minute disintegrated plastic creates. The theme of this exhibition was not merely expressed in words - it was present in multiple ways through the events.

The passion of the artists in bringing out the theme was seen clearly through their work. “Podi deyak wunath loku kapawimakin karala thiyanawa (they have done even the small things with a lot of dedication)” commented R.M.U. Rajapaksha, a railway protection services officer. The emerging artists whose work was on exhibit would most certainly be happy to hear this, along with the chance they got to present their work to a large audience. 

In fact, curator of the exhibition Menika van der Poorten feels that she took a chance on emerging artists, a decision which she feels has paid off as a whole.  “I sometimes selected artists who did not have a body of work based on the merits of their portfolio” she said, adding that she is happy with her decision.

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