Floating Space, a contemporary performance company based in Colombo, Sri Lanka was initiated in 2007 by Jake Oorloff and Ruhanie Perera as an independent inter-disciplinary artistic, teaching and research context to explore possibilities and question perceived limits in performance.
Over the last ten years our intentions for our practice has evolved, and has been revisited by the company as we sought news ways of articulating our insights on contemporary performance-making. We are informed by a framework that we explore, envision and imagine our work through:
- creating and producing original theatre and performance work by/with local creative arts practitioners with a focus on inter-disciplinary work;
- creating and facilitating cross cultural collaborative creative arts projects;
- working in partnership with a range of organisations and individuals to advocate the use of theatre outside its more traditional purposes, especially with regard to participatory performance techniques and issue-based work;
- engaging in a creative art practice at a broader level of education and training, research and an applied theatre practice.
- evolving a space for discussion and dialogue through diverse modes of cultural production so that audiences of the creative arts in Sri Lanka are approached as an integral part of the growth and development of an arts community.
Created against a backdrop of conflict and increased militarisation in 2007, more crucially the breakdown of the ceasefire agreement in the country’s war trajectory, our first production titled in a shadow – an evening of performance poetry had to negotiate the Public Performance Board (the State Censorship mechanism), which led to the choice of the work being presented in a church – a space that was safe from the mechanism of censorship in the country. The choice was both artistic and practical. The reconceiving of space outside of traditional theatre settings became a continuing consideration and censorship (especially in the layered forms of silence and silencing that we were experiencing) a reoccurring theme in our work.
Our philosophy is thus rooted in the artistic choices that had shaped this first work: the consideration of space and context, the form of performance poetry that enabled a clarifying of working with text, sound and movement, and the inclusion of performance art expressions that would redefine our sense of performance inherited through the practice of theatre. We framed our philosophy as being inspired by unlearning, the unconventional and shared experiences in performance; in terms of our artistic vision and practice, our focus became to create and produce performance, with the objective of exploring the possibilities of theatre in terms of form, style, space, approach and purpose.
For Floating Space, the idea of ‘space’ has been an interesting point of departure for creative work, especially in the consideration of where work is created/performed, and since 2007, the company’s work has been performed in churches, private residences, warehouses and libraries. Floating Space has approached the performance making process outside of its more traditional understandings, and space has also become a meaningful consideration in terms of concept, as well as site. Over the years, the company has explored alternative and intimate spaces in the theatre setting, site and the site-specific, as we engaged with conceiving space and pushing its perceived limits in the work we were making.
Over the last ten years, Floating Space created a range of new theatrical and inter-disciplinary work beginning with the production ‘in a shadow – an evening of performance and poetry’ in November 2007. Since then the company has produced ‘A Bedtime Story’ (Colombo, 2008), ‘The War Reporter’ (Colombo, 2010) – in collaboration with the German Cultural Institute, and ‘The Gaza Mono-Logues’ (Colombo, 2010/2011) – an international performance collaboration with Ashtar Theatre, Palestine, also performed on invitation by the Neelan Tiruchelvam Trust, as the 67th birth anniversary commemoration performance of Dr. Neelan Tiruchelvam. The production ‘My Other History’ was created by Jake Oorloff as the recipient of the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust Grant for New Theatre-Making Projects in 2011. It has thus far been performed at the event “Unmaking Time” in Colombo 2011, and Galle (the Galle Literary Festival), Kandy and Jaffna in 2012. In collaboration with the British Council, Floating Space created a site-specific performance titled ‘OverWrite’ that revolved around banned books, bodies and memories in the institution’s library space in 2014. The company’s most recent production ‘Forgetting November’ dealing with memory and processes of memorialization was performed in September 2015 as part of the event “Watch This Space: Framing the Past, Untying the Future” supported by Groundviews and the Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Collaborations and Institutional Support
The company has been supported by the Sunethra Bandaranaike Trust, Groundviews, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, the British Council, Colombo, the German Cultural Centre in Colombo. It has also been awarded grants by the Arts Council, England under the Artist’s International Development Fund (in collaboration with Sally E. Dean Performing Arts Inc.) and in 2012, the Youth Empowerment Grant under the American Centre and the US Embassy in Colombo (in collaboration with Peacebuilding and Development Institute, Sri Lanka).