Rajni Perera’s “My Dreams Started Dancing” – An Interview with Eva Morrison

NOVEMBER 13, 2018

Laval’s Suburb triennial, “Triennale Banlieue!: Là où se prépare le future”, is showcasing 17 Canadian artists whose work touches on suburban identity; ruminating on the larger migrations or everyday commutes, the expanding population, and both the utopian and dystopian perspectives that make the outskirts of the city a place where “the future is prepared”.  As part of the exhibition, Toronto-based artist Rajni Perera combines dreams, symbols, myths, and science fiction inspired aesthetics in a larger-than-life painted mural, titled My Dreams Started Dancing. The work boasts an out-of-this-world cosmic influence, while simultaneously encouraging the viewer to consider the future of artistic production in the suburbs.

  Perera’s colorful humanoid figures intertwine and overlap, dancing hypnotically across the white gallery wall.  A girl’s face seems to call to the otherworldly beings from another universal plane, while an organic orange shape connects the two dimensions. The surrealist piece suggests moments of a fantastic dream or prophecy. I had the opportunity to interview Perera about the process and inspiration behind My Dreams Started Dancing:

There is a sense of empowerment in your series “Surreal Body”, as you subvert traditional mythologies or representations in a process of “identity-making or identity supplanting”, which I find correlates with the mural on view at the Suburb Triennial. Could you discuss the content of the mural a little?

RP: Yes. It is of a girl on another planet, who dreams of dancing beings in space, and who is trying to communicate with her dreams. My work is based out of a science fiction aesthetic and ideology. That means it is a window, so dreams and science fiction go hand in hand for most of the work like this. The way myths go is they reinforce personal and community goals. So, when migrant cultures lose their myths in new countries or indigenous communities have their myths taken away, it weakens a resolve to be liberated and powerful. Marginalized communities must work against this to have autonomy and move forward with solidarity.

How does the work “my dreams started dancing” relate to the theme of the exhibition “Suburb Triennial: Where the Future is Prepared”? 

RP: Yes, the biennial title suggested a beginning, so I wanted to think about innocence and imagination combined with a strongly driving and dynamic force such as dance. Thinking about these as well as science fiction as a conduit for realizing futures helped me to come up with the piece for the biennial. I also used large dancing figures in another Suburb-related exhibition at York University close to Toronto, so there was somewhat of a request to continue that body of work.

What is your process like? What are some inspirations for the symbols and motifs included in your work?

RP: I will normally just do a sketch, project it into the wall, then start painting. The Sinhala text I translated with help from my parents. I work with quite a personalized group of motifs and symbols – images that open and self-reference, as well as change over time. They are normally derived from combinations of physics/science diagrams and Buddhist and Hindu religious motifs and symbolism.

“Triennale Banlieue! – Là où se prépare le future” (including My Dreams Started Dancing) was on view at the Salle Alfred-Pellan at the Maison des arts de Laval from July 29- November 4, 2018.

An undergraduate
feminist art & art history