Theertha Performance Platform 2019 ready to come alive | Sunday Observer

Theertha Performance Platform 2019 ready to come alive

Performance Artiste from 2016
Performance Artiste from 2016

On Tuesday, March 12, I visited the Theertha Red Dot Gallery in Borella, where the Theertha International Artistes Collective was readying to pave the way to unfold the Theertha Performance Platform 2019. This event, with international participation is being held for the third time and from what I was told that evening by the head of the Collective Dr. G. R. Constantine, that the cross-section of artistes set to perform this year is truly remarkable.

“This event is held once in two years,” explained Dr. Constantine; “this time we have 26 foreign artistes and 14 local artistes participating in the Platform, as well as 15 students.” He said workshops will be held in Jaffna, Batticaloa and Galle. The workshop in Batticaloa will include 10 foreign artistes which would likely be a first of this magnitude in Batticaloa, considering the number of overseas artistes who will be sharing their wealth of knowledge, insights and experiences at the workshop, he said.

Asked about the selection process for participating artistes, Dr. Constantine said, “We had an open call. And the response was overwhelming. We had to regretfully decline many since we can practically accommodate only within a certain limit. There is a lot of interest out there among the global artistes community to be part of this event. And almost all of them travel to Sri Lanka at their own expense.”

Explaining how there has been a steady increase of participants for the Platform, Dr. Constantine said this event has contributed largely to the field of arts since undergraduates and even graduate students have done their dissertations based on the Platform’s range of artistic performances. He said a number of undergraduates reading for the BA and BFA at local universities have done their theses on themes of social and political issues, body politics, gender issues and as such depicted in the performances of the Platform. Therefore, going by what has been revealed by Dr. Constantine there is a clear aspect of contribution to the growth of academic knowledge on the arts, especially, the arts of performance through this international event. Dr. Constantine, a medical practitioner and a specialist in cardiology is also a senior lecturer at the Medical College of the Colombo University. A medical practitioner by profession and a painter by passion, the progress that the Theertha Performance Platform has been making is surely a fact that Dr. Constantine can collectively celebrate with his fellow artistes.

The depth of the theme of this year’s Platform is one that finds much philosophical and socio political confluence in the realm of technology which defines the age we live in.

The concept and theme for this year’s platform is “Texting Being”. I would like to cite the description provided by the organisers in their handout about the theme, to provide the readers of the Sunday Observer the philosophical depth this event focuses on. – “ It’s been more than half a century since Derrida made his famous remark il n’y a pas de horse-texte, variously translated as ‘there is nothing outside of the text’, or, ‘there is no outside-text’. The remark itself gained notoriety, being accused of misdemeanours from textual idealism to political conservatism. Today, however, half a century later it seems, as if, the truth of this idea has returned with a vengeance, like the Freudian Thing, perhaps, even, with an ironical twist that would render Derrida himself uncomfortable. At a superficial level, on the one hand, our day-to-day existence is entirely assimilated into, and constantly bombarded by, the telecommunication and social media networks, allowing the affective totality of our beings to be transferred and circulated as texts and symbols that are rapidly unifying the whole of humanity into a single platform.

Iconic here is the question asked by Facebook, every time one logs into his/her account: ‘What’s on your mind…?’ On the other hand, and more seriously, all these mutations at the level of subjectivity occurs on the backdrop of a globalized capital with its monetary signs, a system that is by its nature all-consuming, total and planetary, colonizing not only the places of the planet but also its disparate temporalities. The total dominance of the textual, one might claim, is now completed: il n’y a pas de horse-texte. Where does art fit in this picture? This is especially a question of singular relevance with regard to the still novel form of performance art. For, the quintessential medium of this form is the Body, which is canonically considered as the polar opposite of the Mind that works through and exist within our discursive, textual universes.

An obvious response to this proposition, of course, is the classical Post-Structuralist position that takes the Body itself as a Sign, entirely overridden by the signifier, without any residue in the Real, a Body that is completely reduced to its symbolic function of meaning generation. This is, certainly, one possible way of interpreting the medium of body in its various manifestations in performance art. This is, however, at the cost of reducing the singularity of this medium to one among endless lines of objects that can stand in for the artistic idea, leaving behind, thereby, the materiality of the body as the Real that which resists, as Lacan famously puts it, Symbolization.

How do we account for this duality, entanglement and intertwining of the Text and the Body, of the materiality of the Text and the materiality of the Body, in performance art? There may be various answers and there may even be productive dead-ends lying ahead on this path of explorations. What is certain is that these questions are the quintessential questions of contemporary existence, in an age of mediatised images and globalized capital.”

The Theertha Performance Platform unfolds from March 15 Friday to Monday, March 18 with a host of workshops and events. It is the warm and cordial wish of the Theertha International Artistes Collective to invite all lovers of the arts to come and witness the creativity and diversity in performance that they hope to give life to through this Platform. 

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