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Fetisc Fetisa_copy K B E J Tv6 Tve C
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
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SHIFITS, SHIFITS, 2008 June, Video and Installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
SHIFITS, SHIFITS, Video, and, installation
© Malaka Dewapriya
END LOOP, END LOOP, 2008, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
END LOOP, END LOOP, 2008, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
MALTE, MALTE, 2008, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
MALTE, MALTE, 2008, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
TODAY, TODAY, 2007, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
TODAY, TODAY, 2007, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
TEANSFERENCE, TEANSFERENCE, 2006, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
TEANSFERENCE, TEANSFERENCE, 2006, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
LIFE CIRCLE, LIFE CIRCLE, 2004, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
LIFE CIRCLE, LIFE CIRCLE, 2004, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
EXCHANGE, EXCHANGE, 2003, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
EXCHANGE, EXCHANGE, 2003, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
PENITRATE, PENITRATE, 2001, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
ANXIETY, ANXIETY, 1998, Video
© Malaka Dewapriya
OASIS OF SILENCE , OASIS OF SILENCE , 2007, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
OASIS OF SILENCE , OASIS OF SILENCE , 2007, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
OASIS OF SILENCE , OASIS OF SILENCE , 2007, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
OASIS OF SILENCE , OASIS OF SILENCE , 2007, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
© Malaka Dewapriya
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
IMAGINE TROPICS  , IMAGINE TROPICS , 2006, Photography
Earth, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, Earth
© Malaka Dewapriya
Ornament Dance, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, Ornament Dance
© Malaka Dewapriya
Ornament Dance, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, Ornament Dance
© Malaka Dewapriya
River, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, River
© Malaka Dewapriya
Crowd, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, Crowd
© Malaka Dewapriya
volition, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, volition
© Malaka Dewapriya
Mechanical bosom , Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, Mechanical bosom
© Malaka Dewapriya
flow, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, flow
© Malaka Dewapriya
Take off, Malaka DewapriyaMalaka Dewapriya, Take off
© Malaka Dewapriya
Malaka Dewapriya engages in visual art. He has involved in the Theater field since 1991 and wants to become a composite artiste committed to exploring issues that demand attention. He perceives the world through a critical lens, and wants to intervene in what happens around us through an exploration of Socio-psychological milieu. He has been engaged in a variety of fields in the arts, ranging from fi...[more]


RackRoom
Interview with Malaka Dewapriya

Feb. 2009 -  ArtSlant's Natalie Hegert first connected with Malaka Dewapriya when she read his article, Sri Lankan Experience of the Short Film.  Since then, Natalie has had an email conversation with Malaka about his work and current projects.  The following excerpts come from that exchange.

Malaka Dewapriya, Shifits, 2008, video and installation, Akademie Schloss Solitude; Courtesy of the artist


Natalie Hegert:  At the moment you're on a grant for the National museum of Contemporary art in Seoul--are you still in Korea?  What are you working on there?  Will there be an exhibition at the end of your residency?

Malaka Dewapriya:  I am currently working on two different artistic projects. One is about a woman's life, and the other relates to mechanisms and our lives.  I will have a group exhibition soon and I am scheduled to have another exhibition at the end of my residency.

Malaka Dewapriya, Mechanical Bosoms, 2009, video, National Goyang Art Studio; Courtesy of the artist


As a synopsis of my project: gender identity of women in society is affected mainly by religion, culture and traditional attitude toward woman by the patriarchal hegemony. Specially, in the Asian context, and particularly in Sri Lanka, where Buddhism has played a major role in shaping the historical discourse, the religious and cultural milieu has portrayed a typical feminine identity to be a weaker sex, and due to the socially (basically through religion) constructed view of the treacherous and sinful woman, even in this modern age she has not been given her due place in the society. Women in Asiatic society has become a mere object of male desire and subjectivity of woman has not been allowed to speak for her. Thus, the two polarized identities of male and female in society has created an exploitative relationship and woman has gained a lesser status, comparable to that of a slave. 

In this work I mainly attempt to problematic this gap in the two social contexts. As we experience, the Western woman has transcended several patriarchal barriers and enjoys certain freedoms that the Asiatic women are deprived of. It is my aim to present this socially constructed view of woman basically through the contemporary Western woman’s point of view.

NH:  Have you always worked in film or installation or both?

MD:  Yes, I have always worked both in film and installation.  However, I have also had opportunities to work in theater and radio, and I do photography as well.  In the last couple of years I have done a fair amount of photography. I started to produce original theatre plays since 1991 and I have translated and directed for Sri Lankan theater the play of "One for the Road" by Harold Pinter, 2003.  As an author, I published Uge hisa Ivarai (Off with his head) original Radio play collection under the sponsorship of the National Library of Sri Lanka, 2006, and Magical Festival was published in Buenos Aires: Eloísa Cartonera in Argentina 2007.  All of these art experiences gained me a blend of a variety of styles in my visual creations.

NH:  How would you characterize your films?

MD:  What is important in my filmic work is that I want to intervene in what happens around us through an exploration of socio-psychological issues.  In developing my work I use narrative, as well as symbolic and experiential techniques.

NH: Intervene, in what way?  Do your films have a socio-political goal?  Are they meant to change society in some way and how?

MD: You can get very good idea about me after seeing my works.  One problem in contemporary art, as I identify it, is that it has become more of a decorative art, with various shapes, glistening colors and etc. So the contemporary art, mainly, has become a kind of toy production; I mean they are not much different from toys. But one could say that there is an artistic dimension in anything that gets the touch of human hand and brain. However, I am not trying to engage myself in such a subtle discourse on art. In fact, the problematic, as to which becomes art and which does not, has been a historical question. In a way it becomes a philosophical matter which has been debated for thousands of years. My intrusion into the discourse of art belongs to the strongest discourse of knowledge about art. Basic premise of this discourse would say that there are no intrinsic meanings in any product of art. The meaning results from a reading of the object. It is in fact a dialogue between the object and our knowledge, reading of its signs, symbols etc. Through this the provider of the meaning, the artist and the receiver of the meaning, the audience, engage themselves in a meaning-making exercise. So a great piece of art would definitely enrich this enterprise of the two sides.

If I explain this in another term, ‘discourse’; it is in the discourse that the meaning gets its flight. As a result of the discursive engagement some pieces of art or knowledge would become dominant. This is a general condition for everything, not only for the art. As I pointed out at the out set, the problem of the contemporary art is that it becomes not an art but an instant response to the market needs, the logic of the demand and supply. The artist could produce for the market because he is dependent on it; his living is dependent on it. Also, in the society which is regulated by the market, they can survive. Survival in the sense of earning money. The average people who enjoy the art are not conscious of their act. They are happy with the simple entertainment or the glamour of the creation. Then it is clear that the creations which are much more attractive or colorful would survive. When someone creates something which is not bound to the logic of the market, the reception it receives would be lesser compared to the others.

I am not labeling my creations as political. But I would say that all the creations that I have brought in have attempted to go beyond the popular contemporary art. Because, I could do as I did not create to sell them. All my Video productions attempt to make a certain expression, a critique on the society. You  asked me whether I wanted to change the society through my creations. Actually, I had no such a great need but my creations if carefully viewed would enable to change something in the viewer. The way they approach something, their ideas. If an artist has such an aim, I think he/she is great. All the great artists have immensely contributed for the social change which is a fact. As I study, the great pieces of art are the ones which have become challenging to the conservative, traditional orthodox views of the society. Every artist can have a political aim or his creation could express such a political view. I think their creations become great due to this reason. If you may ask what my political ambition in my art would be, I would say, I have made a certain attempt to challenge some conservative ideas in the society. I have touched some contemporary issues. For instance, in my “Transference 2006” I talk about the relation between a man and woman which in fact is a hierarchical relation. In “End Loop 2008”, the problem of identity, it could be ethnic identity or something else. “Life Circle 2004” is an attempt to look at the women’s life which is domesticated and exploited for the whole life. In “Shifits 2008” I talk about fetish and consumption and its impact on the human life. "Exchange 2003" is an attempt to symbolically represent the forms of power that the Srilankan society in particular and all the post-colonial states in general have come to be with. In "Today 2007" I attempt to portray the obsession of human society with the technological gadgets. In “Penetrate 2002”, the couple, two university students representing two economic classes find it unable to see the humane dimension of love which is overshadowed by the market of love and marriage. “Anxiety 1998” depicts a writer’s ambitions to create. “Rhythm painting and He(Malter) 2008 ” is about a painter and his creativity and thought process. Finally, “Mechanical Bosom 2009” is an attempt to have a look at mechanism and our lives. In this way, I have attempted and will attempt in the future to depict the issues in the contemporary society with my medium: video.

NH:  Where can we see your works? Are they online?

MD: You can see them on my website - malakade.blogspot.com.

NH:  Where have you shown your work recently?

MD:  I have been fortunate enough to be able to screen my video works all around the world at International film festivals in Israel, the Netherlands, Japan India, Pakistan Germany, Austria and Italy .
As a visual artist most recently I exhibited my works at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany.  It was group exhibition with other Solitude Artists related to Fetish and Consumption.  I created a video and installation which is named Shifits, which relates to the context of Sri Lanka where the capitalist mode of production has been at a primary stage; men and women increasingly find their employment in foreign countries‐ Middle East and Europe‐ mostly as housemaid and laborers.

A majority of these people who return to the country after a few years of service carry a huge amount of commodities with them, mostly electronic equipment. Their exposure to the highly consumptive capitalist societies has caused them to buy more and more commodities than their real life has use for. For instance people in the remote areas of the country, where the most basic infrastructural facilities like electricity have not been supplied, tend to gather these commodities and showcase in their homes. Their craving for the possession of certain commodities like television sets, washing machines and fridges display the fetishistic character of the objects that the material life has real connection with them.


Malaka Dewapriya, Shifits, 2008, video and installation, Akademie Schloss Solitude; Courtesy of the artist


When people find the commodities that they have bought in pursuance of the desires that the market created in them, despite the irrelevance of such objects to their existing condition of the material life, those goods are used for other purposes‐ for instance refrigerators are used as suitcases, washing machines as container of books and the television as a chair. The fetishistic objects projected by the market ultimately have become mere stuff without real relation to life.

NH:  What has been your experience as an artist living in Sri Lanka?

MD:  The situation of art in Sri Lanka is different than Europe, America, Japan, and Korea, and many other countries in the world.  Actually it is different from India as well.  In Sri Lanka, we have a few art galleries but exhibitions are going on very rarely. Most of the work being shown are paintings or photography.  One rarely finds truly contemporary work being shown. It goes without saying that there are no institutional mechanisms, like in Europe or America or other developed Asian countries at the state or private level which assist, finance or encourage the artist in Sri Lanka. Instead there is the censoring and ban that frustrate the artists who labor to produce a work of art in their capacity.

NH:  Thank you Malaka and good luck in your upcoming projects.


ArtSlant would like to thank Malaka Dewapriya for his assistance in making this interview possible.

--Natalie Hegert

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