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Now On: Instigating Collaborative Study by The Packet Sri Lanka

screen grab of The Packet

While this time has brought out incessant calls to theorize about the future and about what might become of the world, we are interested in refusing this rush to theorize.

The Packet

NOW ON was conceived as a call that welcomed ideas, thoughts and experiments that responded to the current crisis and its impact on the work of promoting arts and international arts exchange. Of the 100+ applications received, eight received the Now On grant. The Now On series of interviews presents the recipients of the Now On grant and their projects.

In this interview, we speak with The Packet Sri Lanka about Instigating Collaborative Study, which received the Now On grant.

1. Could you introduce The Packet?

The Packet began with a community of artists and friends meeting in an apartment in Colombo. What emerged was a collaboration on a deconstructed art-book, and has since evolved into a larger group practice. Instead of “speaking at” or “speaking to”, we’ve been asking what it means to “speak from” and what it looks like to do thinking in public. We adopt a model of collective study that is encompassed by, to paraphrase Fred Moten, “what we do with other people”, with a particular focus on hyper-locality, collaborative processes and conversation. The packet is a community of artists currently made up of Imaad Majeed, Venuri Perera, Cassie Machado, S P Pushpakanthan, Dinelka Liyanage, Ephraim Shadrach, Abdul Halik Azeez and Sandev Handy.

2. What is Instigating Collaborative Study?

Instigating Collaborative Study (ICS) is an attempt to create space for the forming of a temporary community that will come together to explore ‘thoughts in flux’, and the ways one might give voice to them. The project will take as departure points; a zine archive, a series of curated texts, discussions, workshops and weekend residencies as frameworks to structure this community space. It invites 8 art practitioners in Sri Lanka to spend 3 months in a regular community process varying from self-publishing to cooking together.

3. What inspired you to apply to the Now On grant?

The Now On grant was an invitation to further experiment with new formats for artistic creation and collaboration under the current conditions of restricted mobility. For the Packet, however, the ‘current’ was inextricable from the future. We had been experimenting with a different way of working and speaking that only intensified under the conditions of the pandemic. The ‘Now On’ call, therefore, felt like an appropriate opportunity to reflect, expand and put further into practice what had been swirling in and around our group practice. In the current framework of our world, we feel it is liberatory to continue to speak from the intimate, and to think in public through the vehicle of ‘what you do with other people’ and ‘time spent with each other’ (Fred Moten).

4. How does Instigating Collaborative Study promote artistic work despite the pandemic?

For us, the question is less about how to promote artistic work despite the pandemic, and rather what the current conditions brought about by the pandemic might reveal to us about our ‘always already’ existing ways of working, speaking and being together. While this time has brought out incessant calls to theorize about the future and about what might become of the world, we are interested in refusing this rush to theorize. What we are aware of, is that artistic communities are working from within limited capacities, much of which existed pre-pandemic. It is precisely in response to these conditions (that may have intensified under the pandemic) that we hope ICS will be an opportunity to work collectively on art forms that circumvent traditional means of artist work. How can this turn toward community and the hyper-local open up possibilities for the future, and expose the failings of our present?

5. What are the next steps for your project?

We are currently in the middle of a prep period, sourcing zines for our zine library, preparing texts, printing the first edition of the Packet book, and meeting with potential participants.

Follow @the_packet on Instagram and on this website for updates.

Read more about Now On here.