The First Political Space Called Home #2

The First Political Space Called Home” seeks to create a “differential space” (space [to be] different, to be able to do ‘defiance’ against the monotonous/dominant), which allows the subjects to seek emancipation and counter-memory creation of what happened in the process of reproduction of the political space called home. In Dito’s case, it is a counter-memory of the dark history of the nation and the emancipation of the system which causes a gap in communication between his generation and his father’s generation, a distance that is formed not only in terms of space (spatial) but also in time (temporally). The counter-memory to the communication dysfunction, or to the transfer of incomplete narratives, in my opinion, is the essence of the four works presented in this exhibition.

In the “First Political Space Called Home #2”, it is this intergenerational encounter that became the main object of observation. In relation to the house as a political narrative production space, there is a transfer of feelings, views, understandings, and experiences — narrative migration of the history. However, migration of the narrative does not always run smoothly and the reproduction of the narrative (supported by “memory”) is no longer oriented towards story/fact likeness. This migration of the narrative actually exists as a process rather than as an objective; a process that reconfirms roles while repositioning space and spatial politics.

(The digital extension of the exhibition is now online as an exhibition walk-through video. Follow this link to watch the video)

Jarak dalam Hitungan yang Sama (An Awkward Measurement of Our Distant Experiences)

An old man enters a room — which we can guess is a family room — while the young man, played by the artist himself, relaxes there. Before long, we hear them chatting in a formal manner. More precisely: the video maker deliberately constructs it to be “as formal as possible”. In fact, this intention is exposed to the eyes of the audience as part of the video’s narrative style. Instead of a fluid conversation and free from the impression of “acting”, Dito chose to show that the conversation was indeed arranged based on a scenario. The two actors chatted while reading the script. From what was initially just lip service, the conversation came to mutual recognition of the reasons for not discussing politics (including practical political issues) with each other at home. From there, we know the reasons related to worry, fear, and trauma that the father and son understand and experience differently. The conversation continues with the occasional visual of the boots — the same visuals we see in the 9-channel video installation. And at the end of the video, we will see that the 9 channel video installation is in the same room as the conversation events we watch. The video ends when the father goes outside the frame (out of the family room) and Dito also leaves after turning all the tube TV screens off. These are the scenes that are constructed into a work entitled Jarak dalam Hitungan yang Sama (or An Awkward Measurement of Our Distant Experiences), a work which, for me personally, is the essence of the second part of “The First Political Space Called Home” project.

Especially, if it is possible to elaborate further on the aesthetics of this video, it is about the presence of a script that is openly read by the two actors. The script has destroyed the “fourth wall” even though the two actors don’t speak to us, the audience. With a method of directing a la Brecht like this, the audience’s awareness is even more aroused performatively. This video opens a narrative about constructed, controlled communication, which is unnatural. In fact, it was this kind of communication model that was a problem for Dito, at least what he experienced. The speculation is that this can all occur due to the “political space” that shelters the two subjects. And if the speculation is true, similar communication has the possibility to occur in another “political room” (at home) if the spatial characteristics are the same: for example, PERUMNAS. So, we can imagine how the construction of space by the powers that work in society is related to the social relations that occur in that space. This does not mean that the script read by the actors represents the “power construction” of the New Order.

Suara di Belakang Kepalamu (Sound at the Back of Your Head)

Suara di Belakang Kepalamu (or Sound at the Back of Your Head) inclined toward how political narratives are transferred along with the rise of media technology to the private spaces of society, as well as its relation to the audio visual experience of subjects outside the technology. Constructed as a 9-channel video installation work (and using tube TV), this video manifests the symbolic use of an object that is closely related to the militaristic politics of discipline — even unconscious control — of the New Order. As Dito told me, the sound of the boot’s footsteps is such a strong and lingering memory of how his father’s generation understood politics. Based on the listening experience of the subject/ home resident, Dito played with the iconic visual of the boot, a visual which, when placed in the context of the visual history of politics of the New Order development, would naturally have political significance. Boots are arguably an icon that haunted Indonesian citizens at certain periods when militaristic laws were enforced by the regime to the point of being completely restrictive. Not only that, the consideration of the use of tube TV objects is also related to the time context indicating symbols of the era: TV is the main means of the New Order authorities to control society with information — the public character is constructed according to the state agenda. TV is a common object in the family room at home; Tube TV is an index for talking about the spatial characteristics (which are of course political) in a given era.

Sarana Bina Keluarga (Family Building Facilities)

The found image-based photography work entitled Sarana Bina Keluarga (or Family Building Facilities), in this exhibition format, takes its own unique role to facilitate the visual context of what Dito suspected, that the house (as a political space) always determines language (or gesture) of the subjects. This collection of photos exposes a style of capturing images of the appearance of the house. Some pictures are visuals of the interior of the house (generally, the living room), some are views in front of the house: some are captured by the camera turning its back on the interior of the house (so that we see the yard, or fence, or the condition of the road in front of the house), there are also captured by the camera facing the house (so that we see the front view of the house). In general, the common thread of all the photos: although the details of the composition are different, they all show the same nuance – there is a camera capturing the pattern that leads our perception, who sees the photo, to suspect the similarity of perceptions of the residents in their attitude looking at, evaluating, then telling (through photos) the rooms they live in day to day basis. If you borrow the term from Dito, there is one uniformed style of language.

The speculation on this work also reminds us the historical context of PERUMNAS (Government Housing Program). This can be most clearly read by the audio news about the inauguration of the first PERUMNAS in Depok I (formerly known as Depok Jaya), West Java, Indonesia in 1976. From a critical perspective, we should suspect that the politics of development through PERUMNAS is one of the New Order’s ways to shape the character, temperament, and the soul of every citizen: creating loyalty, discipline and obedience through the pretext of creating a harmonious life of the “Indonesian family” in a simple and affordable home. This is apart from criticism in a number of literatures which consider that PERUMNAS failed to realize the ideals of equal distribution of economic welfare for citizens during the New Order era. However, many experts believe that the New Order regime actually perpetuates and affirms the hegemony of its power through “equitable development” and the provision of “houses for the people”. Based on our agreement on this assumption, it is understandable then that the visuals in the photo collection of Sarana Bina Keluarga echo what many of the cultural studies experts explain: the “architectural characteristics” of a building represent the political-economic aesthetics of the rulers. The uniformity of the public, one of which, can be seen from the uniformity of the existing space (whether it is a home or city scale), which can then lead to a uniform perspective and the  uniformity of the language styles of the house residents.

Kerja-Kerja dalam Turunan Waktu (Homework: In Time Derivatives)

The video titled Kerja-Kerja dalam Turunan Waktu (or Homework: In Time Derivatives) presence in this exhibition seems to be a semicolon sign — the author has a chance to end this story, but chooses not to. And that there are parts that are interrelated, but can work independently, as well as the process of extracting counter memories: each generation has its own approach. For older generation, it seems that maintaining a stance on discussing political issues was an option, and migrating the narrative in this way is necessary. Meanwhile, for the younger generation, there needs to be a certain disruption to really open up clearly the latent power relations that work in us. We can capture  the artist’s intention, that the task of uncovering this matter has not been completed – as we can see Dito’s statement in this video. Considering the interpretive potential that this work has: the use of text, as its main visual element, echoes the notion of the work of a marker — open and plural in nature — which will continue to develop and demand new interpretations. By stating that “homework is not finished” through the text as a Text (with capital letters – a concept from Barthes), this fourth video is also performative, in the sense that it acts as a creative appeal rather than just historical testimony, and that the political narratives that surround we in everyday spaces need to be framed as a literary phenomenon.

(Extracted from the curatorial text written by Manshur Zikri. The original text (in Indonesian) can be read here)

This project was presented in Ruang MES56, Yogyakarta – Indonesia (2020) curated by Manshur Zikri.