Cocoloco blog

Cocoloco. the discourse. Sura Medura. Blog 11.

The aim was to take people’s attention from thumb scrolling banality to essential artistic experience, albeit an unfashionable one – the book reading on the street. We were looking at the communicative power of acoustic sound and the musical intensity of many languages spoken at the same time. Our thesis was to capture people’s attention for a moment, a ‘street theatre time’ for the purpose of entertainment while the massed action readings provided the performative element. Our readers used English, Sinhalese, Czech, Albanian, Italian and French. The day turned out to be sumptuously beautiful. The chosen venue (a rampart in Galle Fort overlooking the sea) was apposite for the overall look and study of the sound. Dave House recorded the event with high-tech equipment (resulting mix coming soon). We did regret starting a little too early and missing the extraordinary magic hour before sunset over the sea because our drivers were a bit tetchy to get home before dark but it’s a minor quibble. The piece was highly regarded and a huge success from our point of view and from audience reaction. We can’t wait to continue the experiment elsewhere. A short video of the event is available here.

Helen Statman

Helen Statman & Dave House

Florent Mehmeti

Trevor Stuart

Aneta Fodorova

Sudu and Chinthaka

Tim Hinam

Matteo Lanfranchi

A guest reader

Sita Pieraccini

Fabrice Deperrois (reader & plinth art designer)

Fabrice’s library

Blog 10

Neil asked how the reading performance was progressing? We’re looking at various options for plinths. We have nearly all our team (9) standing by (English, Scottish, French, Australian, Italian, Czech but we need Sri Lankans and we’re having trouble finding some. We gave a talk about our work at the Faculty Arts/performance and the students were very reticent to come forward with questions, opinions, anything really…

We thought we might do a performance in the Hikkaduwa Sunday market but there’s not even enough space to scratch one’s arse. We also thought we’d do it by the river where the turtles come in but after two recces we decided against because there were too many truculent Russian tourists.

We decided to do a recce in Galle. Luckily the first Test match was on. We sat for a little while on the Galle fort ramparts to watch for free opposite the Mahinda Rajapaksa pavilion. See if you can spot the ball in this pic. (p.s. England won.)

After fishing around many different sights we have decided to make our performance on the sea wall at the far end of the fort.

Here we can put 8 performers on decorated boxes 20 metres apart reading exuberantly to the sea. Passers-by can stop and listen at will. Watch this space…

Blog 9

We were obsessed by the 1st June, 1981 burning of the Jaffna library by Sinhalese rebels. This biblioclasm destroying about 100,000 rare Tamil texts, it is cited as being one of the trigger points of a horrible 26 year war ending in over 100,000 dead from both sides and a very bad taste in the mouth from the genocide in the last weeks of the war leading to the declaration of victory on 18th May, 2009.

Mission statement in 3 languages.

Our vision in 3 languages.

Thiruvalluvar. Poet born in 2nd century BC. The library saint. Many Tamil people we met said that they had no voice in Sri Lanka.

We are in Sri Lanka in political chaos – chairs and chilli powder throwing in Parliament. (We acknowledge it’s not as horrific as the grenade in 1987).
It has drawn our attention to the cult of personality, mass media propaganda and abuse of power. The idealised, heroic and worshipful image of Rajapaksa has brought us back to Dr YaYa and the desire to make some theatre around these subjects. Dr and Lady YaYa are inspired.

It’s an achingly beautiful place despite the racism, corruption, poverty, slow internet and poor cricket results.

Blog 8. Sura Medura. Jaffna

We were itching to go to Jaffna to research a different culture from our Sinhalese based Hikkaduwa life. We took a train from Colombo on a terrifically rickety track for 9 hours to Jaffna, capital of the Tamil north.

We crossed Ele- phant Pass, the route for the an- cient Probosci- des from India and site of seri- ous battles dur- ing the Tamil Tiger years.

This is the home of the gorgeous Palmyra palm, just as useful (100%) as the coconut palm and way more sexy.

Cows are are beautiful but sometimes need a treatment. Street life can be so wearing on the skin.
Can cows contract botulism from botox injections?

We checked out the Active Theatre Movement in trepidation for the possibility of a Lankan Ar- taudian revolution. Just think – Kathakali/Bollywood/Expressionist theatre… sadly, not a lot going on…

There are 2 long causeways (one new and smooth, the other, rutted and potholed) and a ferry to the Jaffna island, Nagadipa, where there is a Hindu temple and a rare in the north, Buddhist temple. Helen’s left foot flip-flop broke as she alighted the ferry. She walked 100 metres to the temple and there in front of her was an almost new left foot flip flop, just the one and the right (correct) foot… some would say “Miracle!” others “a nice coincidence”.

Nice temple. Ornate. Grand. Colourful. Comical. Comical, historical, tragical, pastoral.

This sort of sums up just about everything…

Exciting times Blog 7

This fisherman travels around 1,200 miles over 3 months to fill his frozen fish fridge. He’s fallen overboard in high seas off Africa and has a theory in which Indian Ocean trench we can find MH370.

We stayed a night with Colombo artists, CoCA Art, Poornima Jayasinghe and Chinthaka Thenuwara. He repairs old amplifiers on the side. Hi Fi! and she’s Head of Visual Art at the British School (long hours, low pay). They live off the road in a gated cul-de-sac. One doesn’t hear noisy Colombo in this haven. They are the most delightful people/artists and they can’t get a visa to come to see us in London because of British travel restrictions…

Chinthaka’s 86 year old father still drives this 1938 Mercedes Benz. 80 years on the road and barely a tuk tuk screatch.

Art in Sri Lanka has many forms. In Galle and Colombo there is a competitive art scene with some heavyweight work at the Biennale. Everywhere else has a distinctly folk art feel. For we smug, first world, flat white society, late modern practitioners it is hard to define artistic worth. We battle with our prejudice, racism, preconceived notions and definitions of objectivity daily…

We also struggle with alien custom like this Puberty Ceremony (pic and name on large photo book withheld). We met a wonderful Tamil family here six years ago. Now, two of the three girls proudly show us their puberty party pics involving complete adultification with visits from parents of boys for the purpose of arranged marriage. We of the atheistic west love the ethnic bizarre yet loathe the rigid religious ritual. One wants to be a doctor, the other, a lawyer. We pray that education and revolution will save these souls in the Hitchens/Dawkins model.

Talk about social mores. What did this poor individual do to deserve this? We thought Catholic Inquisition/hell punishment threats in James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” was nasty but this Buddhist diorama takes the cake. Wewurukannala Vihara. Dikwella. (not made up).

Blog 6

This architectural dream. This Sura Medura. Quite Frank Lloyd Wright. We’ve been given the Mango room. We lean out on our balcony. We pick a mango. (The above tree is also a mango).

Seems a bit sexist but the Sura Medurian women are on the boat trip on Dodanduwa Lagoon too.

“That’ll teach her for being a bad mother.” Buddhist temple on an island in the lagoon.

Local and international hero, Matteo de Milano. The beard is false.

First weekend workshop with the fabulous Sri Lankan contingent – an Emotional Mapping exercise opened up our creative juice sluice.

We made Constellation Maps of our relationships in many forms….

We found time to play the exciting and competitive Film Game. The above team won.

Cocoloco coconut – Sura Medura blog 5

Performance 1. Sura Medura, 2018. “Coconuts fall only on bad people”
Dr YaYa sat under a coconut palm for a defined time in an attempt to explore the myth abounding in countries renowned for their coconut palms that the tree somehow has knowledge of a person’s moral history – i.e. whether a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ person is sitting under it.
As a rationalist, Dr YaYa defied the above mentioned myth by purposefully imagining ‘bad’ thoughts or reliving any ‘bad’ moments in judgment that he might have made during his colourful life. He also hummed “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Rolling Stones. Dr YaYa had agreed with the”coconuts’ management” that in the event of an accident he would not pursue any legal matters arising from this performance.
Dr YaYa had considered the following re – falling coconut mortality.
The coconuts under which Dr YaYa sat had not been ‘cleaned’ i.e. cut and removed at the usual time at Dr YaYa’s request to ensure that the coconuts were ‘loaded and ready to drop’.
The speed of a coconut falling from above 5 metres could be around 50mph.
There are approximately 150 deaths each year from falling coconuts. This is a disputed statistic but the extrapolation from figures in some tropical countries appears to be consistent.
No coconuts fell on Dr YaYa’s head in the allotted time. However, one coconut did fall a week later. No one was harmed.

Do Coconuts fall only on bad people?

Dr YaYa dares nature’s whims

Dr YaYa receives an acolyte

Dr Yaya with a ‘rabbit’ coconut by Fabrice

Sura Medura Blog 4 – a dream in the process of awakening

Imagine one is constructed out of architectural and spatial properties of the site where one finds oneself: the daylight, the lush vegetation, the straight angled perspective, the smooth concrete floor, the flat white surfaces, the booming emptiness, the wooden window frames, the brutalist staircase. A homage to a tropical modernist Geoffrey Bawa masterwork surrounded by wildlife. Functional opulence. Do I mimic my context or am I an extension of it? Is this just a fancy game? No, it is rather a way of understanding oneself in a state of isolation. A form of forced holistic self-reflection. My inner externalization argues that it depends on the acknowledgement that you and I carry our environment within us.

This fantasy projection reverberates while attempting to navigate the traces stretched across remote territories of anticipation and inhibition. Contemplation and mind stretching, intimacy and dislocation, imagination and physical encounter – everything is possible. One could even find one’s elf.

Helen looking for her elf

SM Orientation 3

Nice spread at Chaminda’s place

Orientation 2nd day. Tsunami photo gallery.

The gallery consists of dozens of fading photos with curling edges. It’s a small community Tsunami Museum, aimed at educating and preserving the memories of the 2004 Tsunami. It’s informative and harrowing. And graphic.

Cocoloco – Sura Medura blog Orientation – Day 1



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