‘A diaspora problem?’ Christopher Kulendran Thomas and Annika Kuhlmann’s Ground Zero and New Eelam, 4A Papers.

Installation view of Being Human (2019), Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, digital projection on acrylic. Presented in Ground Zero, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, 11 September – 15 December 2019.
Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti. Commissioned by V–A–C Foundation. Courtesy Schinkel Pavillon.
Ground Zero (2019) is a slick and arresting spectacle by the young British-Tamil artist Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Berlin-based curator Annika Kuhlmann. Opening during Berlin Art Week (11–15 September 2019), the installation has prompted much talk. The centrepiece of the exhibition is Being Human (2019), a twenty-minute thesis-video/scripted docu-fiction told through three figures: ‘a young Tamil artist’, ‘a famous popstar’ and ‘a well-known painter’. It plays on tropes of the artist interview, with its implications of the artist-as-genius in canonical Western art histories and as neoliberalism’s ideal subject, the creative entrepreneur.  

Being Human puts forward a complex argument that draws on Thomas’ family’s involvement in the Tamil struggle for independence and the self-governed state of Eelam, in the north of Sri Lanka. Provoking a thirty-year civil war, the dream of Eelam was brutally quashed in May 2009 when Sri Lankan armed forces defeated the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), killing between 40,000 and 100,000 Tamils. A decade on, Being Human addresses the failure of International Human Rights Law to bring justice for Tamils. Returning to concepts in European philosophy and Western art that gave rise to the idea of the universal human subject from which Human Rights Law is derived, the video questions the very category of the human in an era of algorithmic decision-making and networked governance.

Read at 4A Papers

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