To talk with a degree of serendipity?

In the recent exhibition Cities on the Move (C.O.M) - in one of the largest presentations of East Asian artists to be shown internationally - a window onto the global village of art and cultural practice was viewed from the heights of an urban architectural platform whose breadth and purpose exalted yet another new model of modernity. As part of the show, nestling away from the main floor of London's Hayward Gallery, a small map of Colombo was pinned to the gallery walls. It was a work by Sri Lankan artist Chandragupta Thenuwara from a series entitled Barrelism. It shows a tourist map of Sri Lanka, annotated with scribbles and markings, upon which the artist as cartographer marks and locates all positions of military presence around Sri Lanka's capital. From afar, the work appears to rehearse some impending take-over or para­ military offensive and yet, up close, there is something peculiar about the task of marking out all military checkpoints around the capital. The barrels after all have a recognisable form; he need not tell us where they are. Alas, Thenuwara's slightly barmy project is thwarted by the conceptual conceit at the heart of his mapping enterprise. Colombo in this instance and perhaps most importantly is not a 'city on the move'. Moreover when we look at Thenuwara's map of Colombo there is also some cause for concern when we recall that Sri Lanka is not part of East Asia as the curators of C.O.M would have us believe.

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