On this picture you can see a local man presenting his jumping skills
Installation at Karachi Biennale 2019
The work uses photography sourced from public Instagram hashtags on Sri Lanka. The notion of Sri Lanka being a paradise is a historical self-construction as well as a result of the colonial othering, infantilizing, civilizing gaze. Instagram is now almost entirely dominant in its power to represent certain geographies. Especially within the all encompassing perspective of the globe trotting traveler, whose imperative to photograph and document these locales renders them almost useless outside their utility as photogenic backdrops.
Colonial and Orientalist representation, a mutually beneficial cycle of knowledge production engendering political and economic power, was historically a system of representation and power that Sri Lanka was subject to, as a former British colony. I am interested in how these dynamics are mirrored through the contemporary relationship between the media spectacle, neo-Orientalist representations, and the neoliberal political-economic imperative. '...Jumping Skills' observes the dynamics centred around the tourism industry and the culture that it perpetuates, both among visitors and locals.
The project used research methods based on corpus linguistics and critical discourse analysis loosely applying the principles of semiotic analysis to create a visual grid of images which reveals patterns and underlying ideologies. The images were collected from popular public Instagram hashtags and location hashtags of specific areas subject to intense tourism. The work asks the viewer to form connections through visual cues and patterns.
A significant part of the research also included ethnography work which was carried out in the South of Sri Lanka, where tourism oriented transformation is at its peak. This research tried to investigate how a real-life, on-the-ground' observation of social and cultural dynamics could be compared to the Instagram spectacle which presents these geographies in specific ways. This resulted in a 'thick text', a zine which carried interview excerpts, stories and impressions from these locales, which accompanied the exhibit. The ethnographic research also appeared in the installation in the form of photographs taken by me whilst traveling through these locations, interspersed sparsely in-between the influx of images taken from Instagram.
Within the installation I use Situationist inspired detournement style manipulations to bring in cultural context, highlight, isolate and distort, in an attempt to further provoke the viewer into drawing connections between the work and their own politics. These included snippets from articles (e.g. a snippet from an article about PTSD suffered by drone pilots sits within a context of drone photographs used by instagram influencers) and found photographs. They also included a central focus of the installation, a series of post-card sized prints of Instagram images from the same corpus, which I had painted over using the paint tool on Instagram stories.
The research stage of the project also took place on Instagram. I fed a continuous stream of on-location videos as well as a stream of material from my visual corpus onto my own account on the app. These were available to view on mobile phones erected for the purpose in a corner of the installation space.
The mosaic like is designed to be immersive but also to draw viewers into a closer inspection
Both editions of the work featured zines (below) for visitors to read and take away.
Commissioned for Colomboscope 2019, re-exhibited at Karachi Biennale 2019
Installation shot of On This Picture You Can See A Local Man Presenting His Jumping Skills, for Colomboscope 2019.Image courtesy Colomboscope 2019
Image courtesy Vogue India
Image courtesy Aysha Mariam Cassim
Installation at Karachi Biennale 2019