Mediated: Portraying hard data on Sri Lanka through art

Mediated, an exhibition around a new aesthetic that seeks to communicate constitutional theory, hard data from economics and social polling and writing on religious identity through compelling art, runs till the 15th of September at the Saskia Fernando Art Gallery.

As noted on the exhibition’s website, four individuals – a researcher, an economist, a constitutional theorist and an award winning novelist – were invited to give submissions that were anchored to issues vital to a greater and deeper social and political understanding of Sri Lanka today. Four artists were invited to engage with this primary resource material and interpret it so that it through what they produced, attention was focused on the inconvenient, critical engagement expanded and public apathy challenged.

  • Read Asanga Welikala’s background note in full here, around power-sharing in pre-British Sri Lanka as a viable model for devolution of power post-war. See Sunela Jayewardene’s architectural sketch on it here and the final set of drawings here.
  • Read Ameena Hussein’s text here, focussing on religious identity especially after the violence in Dambulla in April. See Jagath Weerasinghe’s initial sketch based on it here and his final artwork here.
  • Read Anushka Wijesinha’s background note here, looking at post-war Sri Lanka’s youth aspirations. Inspired by this note, see Mika Tennekoon’s visual rendition here.
  • Read Iromi Perera’s note on social polling here. See Asvajit Boyle’s graphic representation of it here.

A full colour catalogue is available on the exhibition website, along with more details of and photos from the exhibition as well as short notes from the artists themselves on how they chose to interpret the submissions given to them.

  • Read all the submissions by the Producers in one page here.
  • See all the artistic output, based on the seed content by the Producers, here.
  • Read explanations by the artists about their work for Mediated here.

Above all, please go see the art at the Gallery if you are in Colombo. It’s a very different experience to seeing it on a PDF or online. The art is interactive and invites the viewer to engage by picking up a magnifying glass, reading carefully, or donning a pair of headphones.

As noted in the foreword to the exhibition catalogue,

The subversive element to Mediated stems precisely from an aesthetic that is hopefully, to most who will frequent the gallery, pleasing. Like that famous photo from Vietnam of the naked girl child running away from napalm, an aesthetic carries its own power to question, unsettle and critique. Through the art of Mediated and its source material, I hope you are compelled to ask why, and perhaps, as George Bernard Shaw would venture to suggest, see things that never were and ask why not.

I believe the answers, and there isn’t just one, will enrich us all.