Lotus Power is an expanding archive of content related to the Lotus Tower. It encompasses images taken by the artist as well as found images and representations of the tower in both mainstream and online media.
Work on the Lotus Tower began in 2012. At completion, it will likely be one of the tallest, if not the tallest of all constructions in South Asia. No one knows exactly what purpose the Lotus Tower will serve. There are stories that it is going to house a restaurant at the top, but it seems rather meaningless to build such a huge construction just for a restaurant.
Most people think that this tower will be used for communications, and of course surveillance. Wikipedia appears to corroborate these rumors, as its entry for the tower says that it will be used for “communication, observation and other leisure facilities”.
The Lotus Tower has forever changed the skyline of the city; it is so tall that it can be seen it from almost anywhere in central Colombo. One cannot escape its gaze. The building has become the de facto symbol of the city. In Buddhism, the lotus flower symbolizes fortune, as it rises out of unclean, muddy waters, or in this case, as it rises out of Colombo. The Tower seems to signify Colombo’s process of purification and transformation from “unclean” to “clean”, from “old” to “new”, from “bad” to “good”, from “poor” to “rich”…
I took these pictures when evictions of residents at Vauxhall Street were taking place, to make way for a park surrounding the Beira Lake and the Tower. “Low income neighborhoods” were removed so that the landscape would look “beautiful”.
The event mirrors the history of recent evictions in Colombo. In this scheme, the “poor”, “unclean” and “ugly” are being pushed out to make space for the “beautiful”, “clean” and “wealthy”. The ghettoization of underserved communities is taking place in ways that are highly insensitive to their livelihoods, culture and lifestyles. Taking their former places, Big Capital projects are flourishing.
At the core of Colombo’s post-war development drive, concepts such as “wealth”, “growth” and “success” are taking on meanings directly borrowed from the languages of neoliberalism and materialism. Colombo is trying to achieve its dream of becoming a “world-class city”. Interestingly, this narrative is embraced both by those that hold power and the population at large.
Lotus Power, digital media, 2018. Courtesy of PositiveNegatives and the artist.