Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s “FOR REAL”
              Ann Mbuti
              If history is written by the victors, asks Christopher Kulendran Thomas’s exhibition, is reality a construct of the dominant narrative? What then does it mean to write a history of the defeated? The artist’s work starts from the struggle for Tamil independence during the 1983–2009 civil war and its aftermath, and moves onto the larger questions that arise from its failure. Reflecting on the ethnic oppression that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and forced his family to flee the country, Kulendran Thomas’s collaborations with Annika Kuhlmann suggest that art can influence our perception of not only history but reality itself. Mixing historical facts, storytelling, fiction, and deepfakes, his work offers a glimpse into a reality that exposes the dominant one as just one well-told version of many. The two previous iterations of this exhibition—at London’s ICA and Berlin’s KW—opened with the struggle for utopia before moving on to contemporary art: at Kunsthalle Zürich, the order is reversed. The looping twenty-four-minute video Being Human (2019), installed within a plywood construction, is the first video to encounter when visiting the exhibition and it reflects on the relationship between the end of the war and the flourishing of contemporary art in Sri Lanka. …

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