The Colombo Art Biennale (CAB) 2012 has chosen to orient its presentation of art on the theme of Becoming. As a creative progression to its previous biennale’s theme – ‘Imagining Peace’ –  which was an attempt to respond to the immediate post war/conflict situation in Sri Lanka, which concluded a civil war in 2009 fought in the north and north-east between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the State for 30 years. The theme ‘Imagining Peace’, while giving a nudge to the audience to think beyond the victory euphoria and the enthusiastic rhetoric of ‘peace’, touched on the complexity of ‘peace’ as an idea and its relativity and susceptibility to interpretation. It liberated the process of ‘imagining’ from the preconceived certainty and the absoluteness.

The 2012 CAB theme Becoming denotes the idea of potentiality of transformation or movement – a transformation that is initiated and in progress. While Becoming translates into an idea of a transitional space, meaning ‘possibility of being in a moment between two decisive ends’, it plays on the uncertainty of certainty, up-rootedness, giving it a sense of akathesia (state of restlessness), criticality and open-endedness eluding logical conclusions or undoubted convictions. Therefore, Becoming remains distanced from what it was before, and it is the last space left for pondering before concretizing the trajectory’s end. It’s a space for envisions, doubts, self- reflections, mirroring and intensity of thought.

In terms of the Sri Lankan socio-political trajectory, the idea of Becoming foregrounds post war anxieties stemming from self-reflective questions… ‘What was lost and what was gained? Who lost and who gained? Who are we now? Is there unity, consensus and are we in peace?

Becoming for Sri Lanka also finds interesting connotations within its histories of colonialism, post colonialism and regionalism of South Asia. While Becoming has specific meanings in the Sri Lankan context, South Asian and global anxieties too can find common expressions and articulations in the concept of Becoming in relation to such issues as identity, displacement, armed conflicts, environmental degradation, mass loss of lives, globalization, and cultural exclusivity where Becoming expounds common states of liminality along with highly individualized experiences.

With its expansive title of Becoming, CAB 2012 searches for spectra of art ventures and productions that feed on artist’s ability to derive his or her own specifics of liminality without being judgmental or apathetically relative.

Jagath Weeresinghe
Colombo Art Biennale