White Box Exhibition

07 | 09 - 01 | 12 | 2017

The right and the entitlement to belong somewhere is tied worldwide to citizenship and national sovereignty. But can the societal structures in times of global societal change and mass movement be thought about beyond national borders? What kind of contribution can new technologies and art make?

NEW EELAM, a long-term art work by the British artist Chris­to­pher Ku­len­dran Tho­mas, promotes the vision of a flexible post-national life and aims to find answers to these questions through living co-operatively beyond a permanent residence and territorially bounded citizenship. NEW EELAM is introduced using seductive promotional films and images of spacious, highly desirable aesthetisized living environments. In co-operation with curator Annika Kuhlmann and an interdisciplinary team, Thomas works on the advancement of NEW EELAM and on the real world implementation of a global flat-rate subscription service, in which subscribers or citizens will gain continuous access to a portfolio of attractive homes “in some of the world’s most charismatic neighbourhoods,” as promised by the promotional video. The subscription will allow for what is described as “liquid citizenship“.

The starting point for Thomas’ work is Eelam, once the homeland of the Tamil people in the north-east of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan civil war is one of the darkest chapters in the history of globalization. The moves towards autonomy by the neo-Marxist Tamil state, begun during the late 1970s, were brutally quelled in 2009. Eelam, from where the artist’s family originates, ceased to exist. So how could a new Eelam be imagined? Is an “Ealam for all“ conceivable? Detached from territorial claims, as a global network beyond borders and nations? Or is the flat-rate subscription model proposed suited only for the young global elites?

In the “White Box”, the exhibition and project space of the ZU artsprogram, NEW EELAM was presented in a cool-elegant, modular experience suite in a room equipped with furniture from the Berlin designer NEW TEN­DEN­CY. The installation included a science fiction documentary outlining the historical and political context of NEW EELAM, formulating the aspiration that NEW EELAM could be the basis for a new economic model, one which subversively reinterprets the mechanisms of capitalism. In this environment, works from Thomas’ project “When Pla­ti­tu­des Be­co­me Form“ were also shown.

As a multifunctional environment the exhibition provided an open space for performances, workshops, public discussion events as well as experimental teaching formats and informal round tables, where pressing current issues such as migration, urban development, globalization and forms of future living together were discussed.

Chris­to­pher Ku­len­dran Tho­mas` works deal with the processes of global circulation and distribution, processes in which art is also involved. This also involves the entanglement of his own artistic practice with the advancement of global capitalism. His work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions including the Mu­se­um of Con­tem­pora­ry Art Chi­ca­go (2018), Spike Is­land, Bris­tol (2018). Tens­ta konsthall, Stock­holm (2017), the Shen­zhen Bi­en­na­le (2017), the Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2017), the 11th Gwang­ju Bi­en­na­le (2016), the 9th Ber­lin Bi­en­na­le (2016), the Mu­se­um of Mo­dern Art in War­saw (2016), the Musée d'Art Mo­der­ne de la Ville de Paris (2015),Tate Li­ver­pool (2013). Tho­mas lives and works in London and Berlin.

An­ni­ka Kuhl­mann works as a curator in a number of long-term collaborations and tackles different societal processes in her work. As artistic director of NEW EELAM she took part in the 9th Ber­lin Bi­en­na­le, the 11th Gwang­ju Bi­en­na­le as well as exhibitions at the Ham­bur­ger Bahn­hof, Ber­lin and Tens­ta Konsthall, Stock­holm. Along with the curator Anna Frost she established the curatorial project “planes. sx” at the Bas Fis­her In­vi­ta­tio­nal, Miami (2015). As an artist and founder of “Brace Brace” she was also present at the Mu­se­um of Mo­dern Art in War­saw, at Auto Ita­lia (UK), with KM Tem­po­rär (DE) and DIS (US). Kehlmann works and lives in London and Berlin.

Opening hours

Thursdays to Tuesdays, 14:00 - 17.00h and by arrangement

With many thanks to our collaborators and partners: the Chamber of Architects Ba­den-Würt­tem­berg (Ar­chi­tek­ten­kam­mer Ba­den-Würt­tem­berg, Kam­mer­grup­pe Bo­den­see), to Mi­cha­el Bih­ler from Bih­ler Mö­bel­kon­zep­te and to the foundation Frän­kel-Stif­tung.


  • Ul­ri­ke She­pherd | Curator of Visual Art & Coordinator of the artsprogram | ulrike. shepherd@ zu. de
  • Prof. Dr. Karen van den Berg | Academic Head of the artsprogram | karen. vandenberg@ zu. de
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