(De) Inscribed Memories – By Annoushka Hempel

  • Works By Bandu Manamperi and Pradeep Chandrasiri

The works of Bandu and Pradeep bring together notions of memory, how the effects of external events and doctrines are absorbed into the individual’s being through the body; memories that become inscribed in our skin and run deep into our veins.
(De)inscribed memories is an extremely strong body of work by these two artists represented by both performance and visual art mediums. Bandu’s Perforated Body series expresses the effects of the immediate post war situation of Sri Lanka through the manipulated use of religion and politics. “The Perforated Body” metaphorically expresses how our bodies and minds are perforated and infected by dogma and doctrines. Our original purer skin is inscribed upon by external influences and we find ourselves adopting different skins in which we are in a safer and more comfortable but numbed to reality.
Pradeep’s “Red, Black & White” works are a powerful shortcut to the memories that remain in the veins of the human body.  Memories of places and events that continue to live within and the hidden secrets of what might have happened. Through the body you can see the memories.
Pradeep Chandrasiri is one of the important painters who came into prominence within the discourse of the ‘90s Trend’ in late 1990s. He belongs to the first generation of younger artists directly identified with the ‘90s Trend’. The theme of Chandrasiri’s work has always been focused on violence; to be specific it has mostly been about remembering political violence. This is more so in his paintings, than in his installations that addressed violence more as a cultural or social construct, as can be seen from his internationally exhibited installation titled ‘Broken Hands’.
The central motif of Chandrasiri’s early paintings was a seemingly agonizing male figure who presented himself as if he was engaged in a struggle to free himself from traumatic experiences. These early works were, in many ways, akin to autobiographical notes, and they presented a psychological disposition that was, perhaps, driven by a certain degree of narcissistic injury. Chandrasiri’s 2007 body of works contained the same theme of remembering violence as did his early works of the late 1990s. But in these works constructed with mostly black and white shapes and stenciled images, Chandrasiri deploys a radically different narrative account and presents a very different psychological and visual disposition.
In these works, Chandrasiri engages with his theme in a much deeper and more subtle manner. Bloody events of the late 1980s are reminded, not in an agonizing manner but in a mournful and melancholic way. The play of black and white, their shades and the coiling and wriggling red and black lines have brought in a certain sense of archaism to the painted surface. The notions of conflicting drives, anguish and fear of death, that can be considered among the prototypical phenomena that give rise to narcissistic injury are largely erased or suppressed from the surface of these paintings. By doing so Chandrasiri has been able to produce a series of works that could transcend the memories of violence and look deeper into the meaninglessness of being violent.
Bandu Manamperi’s first art approach entered society with the Made In IAS exhibition, with his powerful work “Instant Nirvana Private Limited”. This work received international and local attention.  Organised under the curatorship of Jagath Weerasinghe, Bandu is one of the important painters who came into prominence within the discourse of the ‘90s Trend’ in late 1990s. He belongs to the first generation of younger artists directly identified with the ‘90s Trend.
Following this, Bandu developed into becoming one of the initiators of performance art in Sri Lanka as part of the 90s Trend.  Today, Bandu remains one of the leading Sri Lankan performance artists active both nationally and performing at contemporary art institutions overseas. As a performance artist, Bandu Manamperi explores three themes.  One is to highlight critically the oppressive cultural beliefs or practices forced upon women that continuously prevail in the male-centric. Another is to present through sensitive performances the individual’s pain in a war scarred society and its extreme anxieties. The third is to interrogate critically, the extreme religious interventions and blatantly extremist behaviour of the state through political and sometimes witty performances.
In this ‘Perforated Body’ collection, Bandu engages in finer and deeper socio political issues. The artworks of this show exhibit an expression of ‘instantly frozen’ beings made from moulds taken of the artist’s own body. These bodies are covered with different textured surfaces and suspended from the ceiling. These are supported by Bandu’s own performance.
In ‘Perforated Body’, Bandu is attempting to express to the viewer that in a society where different cultural/political coverings act as protective membranes over one’s own natural skin, the individual finds comfort and security within it. That is, the individual would acquire different coverings representing extremists and obsessive positions reflective of religion, history, nature, patriotism, self-absorption, independence and media. Bandu highlights that such tendencies in this complex political, cultural and religious time, distort the individual’s personal integrity and ideologies.

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