Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Being Human (2019/22) in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, film still
‘How do you tell the story of the losing side of a conflict when history has already been written by the winners?’
The exhibition Christopher Kulendran Thomas: Another World explores an alternative approach to technology through the prism of the defeated revolution for an independent Tamil homeland.
During the Liberation War for Tamil Eelam the de facto state of Eelam was self-governed by a revolutionary movement that, in the early years of the World Wide Web, used the internet to coordinate a globally distributed parallel economic system amongst the Tamil diaspora. However, the movement’s political ambitions were eclipsed by a bitter military conflict and the autonomous state they led was wiped out in 2009 by the Sri Lankan government.
Developed together with longtime collaborator Annika Kuhlmann, the exhibition features a major new commission, The Finesse (2022), that examines some of the lost legacies of this liberation movement in Kulendran Thomas’ family homeland. The immersive film installation melts pop culture into political science and combines archive footage with AI-generated avatars. The work is choreographed across five monolithic mirrored screens and a projection that spans the Lower Gallery to form an architectural hallucination. The Finesse traces the Tamil liberation movement’s attempt to imagine a cooperative economy based on renewable energy, communal ownership and computational coordination. Blurring the boundaries between historical research and a sci-fi proposition for an alternate reality, it looks at how the art, architecture and technology that were lost with the defeat of the de facto state of Eelam could today inform radically different, and constantly shifting, ideas of the future. With parts of the film continually algorithmically generated anew, the work is never quite the same twice.
The ICA presents a series of newly commissioned paintings that extend Kulendran Thomas’ use of artificial intelligence technologies. Exhibited alongside ceramic works by Aṇaṅkuperuntinaivarkal Inkaaleneraam, a leading light of the Eelam artistic resistance, the paintings are made using machine-learning algorithms trained on the memetic circulation of art historical influences from the Western canon to Sri Lanka’s post-war art world.
Bisecting the Upper Gallery is a new variation of the 2019 video work Being Human which takes the viewer on an elliptical journey around the island, from the fallout of the war there to the biennial of contemporary art founded in its aftermath. Combining real people’s lived experiences with algorithmically synthesised characters, the film traverses documentary and fiction to propose alternate possible realities from the front lines of the art-industrial complex.
Another World by Christopher Kulendran Thomas is initiated by Stefan Kalmár, produced in partnership with Kunsthalle Zurich and KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin and realised with the generous support of Filecoin Foundation and Filecoin Foundation for the Decentralized Web, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts and Henry Moore Foundation with additional support from Adam Hall Group and satis&fy.
With special thanks to Samir Bantal, OMA|AMO and RadicalxChange Foundation.
A variation of the exhibition will run in parallel at KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, opening Friday 21 October.
Tickets £5, valid all day, free for ICA Members & every Tuesday
Saturday 21 January, 4pm
From Stateless Nations to Planetary States
Balaji Srinivasan, Marta Belcher, Rachel-Rose O’Leary and Nivethan Nanthakumar in conversation about how new technologies might enable new forms of communities and societies.