Juror:in: Will Furtado

Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s Another World is a two-part exhibition that draws on the history of the de facto state of Tamil Eelam during the Sri Lankan Civil War, to unravel the complexities of historical narratives. And while the topic may be a thorny one, the artist does it in a digested, interconnected and accessible style by creating parallels between pop culture, political science, historicism, AI-generated art production, and the art market. Kulendran Thomas who is of Tamil descent, sheds light on this underreported conflict, in the video installation The Finesse (2022), to criticize its coverage in the West, where news is presented as unbiased facts. In collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, in the video Kulendran Thomas blends what’s perceived to be fiction and reality via the combination of archive footage with satirical historical reenactions; humorously but not sarcastically. While an AI-generated realistic avatar of Kim Kardashian uses her own family story to bluntly suggest that all reality is an ever changing construction, a fact the West struggles to accept, as the artist hints. To accentuate this with formal rigor, parts of the film are continually algorithmically generated anew. And to situate the work, the installation features a projection mirroring the video, showcasing the lush vegetation of Tamil Eelam’s unique and highly politicized ecosystem; a simple yet often overlooked narration component. In the second part, the artist makes links between the opening of Western-style art galleries on the island after the war ended in 2009, with the proliferation of capitalism and the continuation of Western art ideals that were initially introduced by British settlers. This critique is shown via the series of paintings made using AI trained on art that overwhelmingly populates the internet, which is decidedly Western. These are shown alongside sculptures by the dissident Tamil artists Aṇaṅkuperuntinaivarkal Inkaaleneraam and a new variation of the video Being Human about the island’s first contemporary art biennale after the war. With this exhibition, Christopher Kulendran Thomas breaks with Western simplistic readings of history demonstrating that in fact history is not static, while problematising that conflicts don’t exist in isolation and may actually have a lot to do with the art world.