What sort of discussion are you hoping this year’s theme ‘Conceiving Space’ will prompt?
The theme Conceiving Space is an attempt to create space in which new dialogues or dialogues that haven’t been happening, can happen within and between communities. To this end we have invited renowned international architects to come on board as artists to create these spaces with a focus on community engagement.
Who are some of the 2016 CAB artists you’re most excited about?
This is tricky but I am extremely excited to have Studio Assemble as part of the architectural/community engagement programme, as this year has a very strong focus on unity and community engagement. As part of this component, I’m also very excited to have Will Alsop, Alex Lehnerer and Jayne Dyer on board.
The visual art programme has a strong emphasis on South Asia and the South Asian diaspora with a focus on Colombo as a South Asian cultural hub in terms of art. Some of the artists I’m most excited about for this section are Saima Rasheed (Lahore/UK), Kirti Kaushal Joshi (Nepal), Pushpamala N (India), Faiza Butt (UK/Pakistan), Reena Kallat (India), Hardeep Panal (UK/India).
From a local perspective I am very excited that we have 3 established artists, Anoma Wijewardene, Saski Pintelon and Priyantha Udegara, because the remaining 21 local artists are all young and emerging artists coming from different ends of the country.
3. Where does Sri Lanka currently sit on the world stage of contemporary art?
Biennales are seen as a powerful narrative tool as well as a very positive means for international relations. Sri Lanka in terms of Biennales has been relatively marginalized due to lack of funds coming from the local government.
However, the CAB is now recognised and is a partner in receiving the ‘Ambition for Excellence’ award, a three year programme of dialogues, collaborations and exchanges between art museums and institutions in Liverpool, Manchester and Leeds and five South Asian Biennales. In terms of art and art biennales the world is starting to take more of an interest in the South East Asian region and CAB aims to position itself as the artistic hub in the South Asian region.
4. What do you hope for the future of CAB and contemporary art in Sri Lanka?
The CAB has certainly had an enormous impact on the local art scene; giving artists the opportunity to create and exhibit works beyond the spacial and commercial restrictions of a white cube gallery. In addition, given that CAB also hosts international artists, curators and press, many Sri lankan artists have since been offered the opportunity to participate in international artist residencies, exhibitions and international art prizes.
All this is more than I could have hoped for when Jagath Weeresinghe, CAB co-founder and I kicked-off the first CAB in the midst of the armed conflict in early 2009 with ‘Imagining Peace’. My hopes are simply that the CAB journey continues and that Sri Lankan artists are given the exposure they deserve.