The realization of freedom in art and other areas of society was one of the greatest achievements of the Modernists. Historical avant-garde movements in the first decades of the twentieth century like the Russian Constructivists or the Italian Futurists attempted to link art to modern progressive thinking and to restore its function in a social context. The neo-avant-garde movements after the Second World War like Fluxus or the Situationists also attempted to incorporate art into life. The most systematic representative of these efforts was probably the German artist Joseph Beuys (1921–86) with his extended definition of art, in which everyone is an artist; not in the sense that all people are painters or sculptors, but that regardless of their profession they can potentially make a contribution to society as a “social sculpture”. Where are we and where will we go from here? We are responsible to design the “social sculpture” of the future in which, as Beuys says, “everyone is an artist”.

This omnipresent state of transition at the global, national and personal level is the theme of the second Colombo Art Biennale 2012, called “Becoming”. It is conceived as a laboratory, an experimental field where Sri Lankan, regional and international artists can reflect social realities in their art and provide food for thought. The artists come from all areas of contemporary art: painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, performance, photography, video, film, concept art and participatory art practice.

The evolution of the social context is particularly interesting in Sri Lanka following the almost thirty-year civil war, which has marked entire generations. Wounds have to heal and reconciliation needs to take root in hearts and minds. At the national level Sri Lanka is also in a state of transition, and many Sri Lankan artists are investigating this in their art. And what do the global and national transformations mean for the individual at a personal, psychological level? Ultimately, it is clear, the independent individual must assume social responsibility.

The exhibition wants to make you think and act. If this has been achieved we are one step closer to “Becoming”…