• We 11.09 , 18:00h
  • Th 12.09
  • Fr 13.09
  • Sa 14.09
  • Su 15.09

Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, Being Human, 2019, Installation View, Time, Forward!. Photo: Delfino Sisto Legnani and Marco Cappelletti
Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, Being Human, 2019, Installation View, Time, Forward!. Courtesy the artists
Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, Being Human, 2019, Still. Directors of Photography: Joseph Kadow and Christoph Rohrscheidt


Exhibition 11 SEP—15 DEC 2019
Opening 11 SEP 2019, 6—9pm

Opening Christopher Kulendran Thomas. Ground Zero

Christopher Kulendran Thomas in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann

Around the world, the juridical framework of human rights has been leveraged not only to protect the oppressed and disenfranchised but also to justify the imperial ambitions of the nation states by which human rights are enforced. Perhaps though, the problem is not with the concept of human rights but with the very category of ›human‹ itself. 

Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s family is from a place that no longer exists. 10 years ago, in the summer of 2009, the Tamil homeland of ›Eelam‹—in what is now the North and East of Sri Lanka—was wiped out by the Sri Lankan army. Born through a neo-Marxist revolution, Eelam had been self-governed as an autonomous state for almost 30 years. However, following attacks on the United States on September 11th 2001, revolutionary movements around the world that challenged national sovereignty were relabelled terrorists. And limited by the geopolitical interests of its member states, the United Nations failed to prevent the annihilation of Eelam.

Curiously, in the months after the defeat of Eelam (and with the economic liberalisation that followed), the first white cube commercial galleries opened on the island, representing a generation of artists influenced by the Western canon encountered online. Soon a new market for contemporary art emerged in Sri Lanka.

Developed in collaboration with Annika Kuhlmann, ​Ground Zero​ is Christopher Kulendran Thomas’ first institutional solo exhibition in Berlin. It features original artworks by some of Sri Lanka’s foremost young contemporary artists, purchased from the capital Colombo’s most influential new commercial gallery and presented here as a show-within-a-show. However, visitors will only glimpse this exhibition through a film projected onto a transparent screen, a three-dimensional hypertext exploring the interrelationship between contemporary art and human rights in an era of technological acceleration. 

Featuring algorithmically synthesised characters—a well-known painter, a very famous pop star and a young Tamil artist now working in Europe—the film takes us on an elliptical journey around what is now the island of Sri Lanka, from the Colombo Art Biennale to the former territory of Eelam itself. Traversing documentary and fiction, the work reflects upon issues of individual and collective sovereignty and authenticity. What does it mean to be ‘human’ when machines are able to synthesize human understanding ever more convincingly? And as technology challenges traditional conceptions of individual autonomy, what could post-human rights be? 

Christopher Kulendran Thomas​ is an artist whose work manipulates some of the structural processes by which art produces reality. Recent solo exhibitions include Institute for Modern Art, Brisbane (2019), Spike Island, Bristol (2019) and Tensta konsthall, Stockholm (2017). Thomas’ work has been included in the 7th Bi-City Biennale, Shenzhen (2017); the 11th Gwangju Biennale; the 9th Berlin Biennale; and the 3rd Dhaka Art Summit (all 2016). Recent exhibitions include ​Alternatives for Living​, Kunstmuseen Krefeld (2019), ​I was raised on the internet,​ Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018); ​moving is in every direction​, Hamburger Bahnhof, Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2017), ​Bread and Roses,​ Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw (2016), ​Co-Workers: Network As Artist​, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2015) and ​Art Turning Left: How Values Changed Making,​ Tate Liverpool (2013). His work is currently on view in Venice as part of ​Time, Forward! ​(2019) at the V–A–C Foundation. Thomas is the founder and CEO of New Eelam (​​).

Annika Kuhlmann ​is an independent curator and the Creative Director at New Eelam. Together with Christopher Kulendran Thomas she has developed presentations for the 9th Berlin Biennale, the 11th Gwangju Biennale, Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof—Museum für Gegenwart, Tensta konsthall (Stockholm), Spike Island (Bristol), the Institute for Modern Art (Brisbane), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the V–A–C Foundation (Venice) amongst others. She has also worked on exhibitions at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin); BFI Miami, Kunstverein Harburger Bahnhof (Hamburg) and recently co-curated the exhibition ​Welt ohne Außen​ at Gropius Bau (Berlin) together with Tino Sehgal and Thomas Oberender. 

The exhibition ​Ground Zero​ at Schinkel Pavillon is realized with the generous support of Hauptstadtkulturfonds, Outset Germany/Switzerland and the Henry Moore Foundation and presented in partnership with the de Young Museum, San Francisco. Being Human​ (2019) is commissioned by V–-A–-C Foundation as part of ​Time, Forward!​ for the 58th Venice Biennale.