143.5 Power, resistance, and mobilizing affect through art: Barrelism of Chandraguptha Thenuwara

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 1:18 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Pavithra TANTRIGODA , Department of English, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
This paper examines the significance of visual culture as a mode of resistance to state power. Works of art function to naturalize, as well as expose and undermine the powerful constructions of reality by hegemonic powers such as the state. To illuminate the nature of subversive power inherent in visual activism, this paper analyzes the works of Chandraguptha Thenuwara, a leading Sri Lankan artist, who takes war and violence in Sri Lanka as his subject matter.  It explores the ways in which his art mobilizes affect and makes us recognize our complicity in "militarization," thus invoking resistance to violence and injustice. Thenuwara has coined the term, "barrelism," to describe his distinct form of artistic practice that serves as a mode of resistance to the coercive images of war deployed by the state.  Claiming that the barrels used by the military are dominating the landscape around us and obstructing our view, Thenuwara has strived to capture the reality of current situation in Sri Lanka in his "barrelscapes." His art serves to unmask the violence of war that is made invisible by a hegemonic nationalist discourse deployed by the state and a coercive form of media censorship operating within the country. In using the paraphernalia of war such as barbed wire, camouflage, and barrels as art, Thenuwara seeks to denaturalize and defamiliarize these objects, which have become a part of everyday reality, asking the viewer to interrogate his/her relationship to the reality constructed by the powerful ideology of militarism of the state that naturalizes a violent militaristic solution to the conflict. Thenuwara is thus asking the viewer to confront and resist a powerful construction of war that the militarization of society has normalized with the aim of achieving social justice.