I need Darkness to see Light

Commissioned for ColomboScope ‘Shadowscenes’| 2015 | Colombo  |Curator: Natasha Ginwala

Camera Obscura Installation inside the former Rio Hotel complex, Slave Island, Colombo


The Rio cinema was Sri Lanka’s first 70mm TODD-AO cinema since it was the founders dream, A. Navaratnam to bring a highly sophisticated film experience to Sri Lanka.The 7-storey hotel complex was opened in 1979 and just four years after it’s opening , the Rio Hotel was looted and partially destroyed by mobs during the Black July Riots of 1983.The founder never recovered from the loss and passed away few years later in the exile in Australia.Same as this historical date, the Rio Complex in the midst of the bustling city remained as a living ruin and a time capsule mirroring the violent past to the citys’ conciousness.

Employing the theory of optics and continuing my interest in traversing with the lens across private spaces, the erstwhile hotel room of Rio complex into a camera obscura installation.The wider surroundings beyond the room’s charred intimacy are thereby captured as inverted pools reflecting upon the rapidly altering city view and the repressed memories of Black July riots. The configuration is the role of memory as a ‘living document in the present.