Dis/Placement : T. Shanaathanan

19 December 2014 - 19 January 2015

My art teachers showed me how to draw a straight line. They also trained me to compose a ‘full view’ of an image at the center of the plane by leaving the required background or breathing space around it. They told me that when we draw we are making the fifth line since four lines already exist in the rectangular shape of the paper or canvas. They also taught me how to do light and dark shading to produce the magic of three-dimensional objects. They made me understand the importance of balance, unity, and harmony in the production of a beautiful picture. I also learned the significance of logical relationships between the parts to the whole. I was taught to believe history was a linear and homogeneous arrangement of facts of the past. I was always made to imagine my location with the country in its emblematic form with solid lines of boundaries. I was taught to understand that my existence came from the relationships I had with my family, friends, relatives, village and community. I was educated to see my identity as being shaped by social and cultural boundaries. I learnt the importance of logic for scientific inquiry.

 

But the realities of war questioned everything I learned, shattered all my beliefs and threw me off the path I was destined to follow. Most of my relatives, neighbors and friends either left the country, died, went missing or were displaced through military offensives, ethnic clearance, internal fights, riots, the creation of high security zones, exodus and so the list goes on. My physical environment also changed with the destruction of war and the post war redevelopment. All traces of history that I lived with and the memories I carried with me were removed. Many of villages were erased from the surface of the globe, leaving behind scars in the landscape that are visible either in aerial maps or in the memories of the people. The war ended with the creation of a new disparity between the winners and losers that entrenched itself into the ownership of land, history and even memory. In this context everything is fragmented and exists as fossilized remnants of losses, absences and what has, and will be, forgotten.

 

My recent works explore the experience of place in the post-armed conflict context by investigating the relationship of physical space, memory and history. I am drawn to the fragment because of the free association it gives me to play with ideas of space, time and memories. By creating compositions using jigsaw pieces and maps these works attempt to capture the ruptures associated with place. Each puzzle shaped form represents an identifiable or memorable fragment that is part of a lager vision or experience. The random association produced by the arrangement of mismatching forms, shapes, images and symbols create their own logic or truth. At the same time the apparent connections between the parts produces ambiguity and disconnection. For me these works talk about the impossibility of linear histories and the impossibility of knowing when memories are displaced, lost, abandoned or buried. Knowing only seems possible through fragments. It’s the details that I am interested in not the large scale narrative of events. Borders are not important here but the parts. These works represent the tension of stitching together or matching together incommensurable locations, stories, memories, histories, data and all else.

 

T.Shanaathanan

December 2014

 

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