An artist’s monument to Lasantha in Vienna

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Named after the Unbowed & Unafraid website
Sunday, October 18th, 2009
The Exhibit

Unbowed and Unafraid: A work of art dedicated to Lasantha by Peter Sandbichler

Peter Sandbichler one of Austria's celebrated architects and artists pays tribute to one of Sri Lanka's courageous sons.

The sculpture about 8 metres high stands outside on the Museum Quartier (MQ) forecourt. According to the Mumok Vienna's world famous Museum of Modern Arts, the artist "uses this public space in order to construct a tower-like billboard on which abstract sculpture and concrete message interact with each other: at close quarters it appears to be purely a grid of forms, but as the day goes on it turns out from a distance to be a portrait of the Sri-Lankan journalist Lasantha Wickrematunge.

At night, the tower is illuminated from within, reproducing the negative image of the portrait, transfigured yet again into an abstract sculpture of light." The Mumok in its website also states that "The title of the work "unbowed and unafraid" refers to a political website dedicated to Lasantha Wickrematunge.

Lasantha was a critical editor who stood up above all for the freedom of the press and human rights, exposed several corruption scandals involving the state machinery in Sri Lanka, and, shortly before his death in January this year, wrote a text with the title "and then they came for me", which was to be published in case he was murdered." The sculpture will stand from 16 October 2009 - 24 January 2010.

 

The artist continues with his logic of destruction in the interior courtyard with his work "Tiger Stealth". Here a stealth boat is stranded in the interior courtyard of the MQ, scarcely visible while lifting off from the grid pattern of the paving. The temporary project "Tiger Stealth" is a further development of the work "Sei bereit Tiger" (2006) - "Be prepared Tiger", a stealth boat - undetectable by radar - which Peter Sandbichler developed with the artists' group Knowbotic Research in 2006.

The initial impetus for this installation was sparked off by a report on the Internet, which maintains that the militant guerrilla group of the Tamil Tigers active in the north of Sri Lanka claims to own a stealth boat; the report documents a corresponding manoeuvre on video. For Out Site, he once more takes up this myth and the idea of camouflage, and constructs another fake based on stealth-craft military technology.

In a letter to Lasantha's widow Sonali Samarasinghe, Sandbichler states, "the gap between my practice as an artist and the reality of people who 
risk their lives for freedom seemed so disproportional to me that I 
nearly dropped my plan to dedicate my huge sculpture for the MUMOK to 
Lasantha Wickrematunge.

 At the same time this very intense impression encouraged me to realize 
this work in a way in which it does not only stand for itself as a 
memorial but tries to transcend the unacceptable conditions when it 
comes to the most essential issues such as freedom of speech and civil 
rights. I am fully aware that just giving a spotlight does not mean 
much, but since this sculpture now - through its simple existence -
seems to strike Lasantha's legacy in a sparse but subtle way, I look 
forward to develop my work further.

"

Shortly before his death in January this year, Lasantha wrote his own obituary entitled “And Then They Came For Me”, which was to be published in the event of his assassination.