Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Paisarn Plienbangchang, "On a Burden of Delight" (5) in the Silpa Wattanatham Column of Siam Rath Weekly News magazine. Yr 51, Vol 9, 23-29 July 2004

1/ After the tiring feast on the last night with the IAPAO festival for Performing Artists International in Bandung: so many came together in that week. They concluded, as people do in these circles. When people aren’t used to it, they look on, puzzled at the dynamic of such a get-together.
2/ From Bandung, we took a morning train to Yogjakarta, or ‘Yog Yar’ as the Javanese call it. ARAHMAIANI, an artist friend who moved with the procession – looking at everyone moaning and groaning. But who can be blamed? Because everyone was there of their own free will, right?
3/ Yogjakarta, I had visited in 1985, almost 20 years ago. The picture of the city seemed to have slipped and blurred with time, with the old high spirits and recording of tales. There were only some parts told, and this may be the deep desire in my heart to revisit Yogjakarta. Today, one is traveling with the energy of that desire, and we would arrive there in not too many hours.
4/ Sleeping and dozing intermittently and gazing out the train window. The landscape was all strange and beautiful: the terraced fields, so wide and green; the houses in the countryside where people were making their living. I thought happily of my own land. If we didn’t have to struggle so much and compete so madly, it might be nice. And if things outside did not invade and take over, insisting themselves in our lives so much, it would make life much simpler. Isn’t it so?
5/ About 3 in the afternoon, the train pulled to a halt in Yog Yar station. The artists disembarked, disheveled and weighed down with their knapsacks, in a crowd and with no semblance of being artists. IWAN WIJONO, a young male artist from that area came to pick us up in a pink VW van. So we all had to squeeze mournfully into that van.
6/ We Thai artists and ARAI, a Japanese artist friend, left the group to sleep at YANI’s house. That was helpful. It was not far from the Kedai Kabun Forum, the place where we were to show. It was only about a 15 minute walk down the road.
7/ “In this city, the people live simply. There is no great hurry, as in Bandung. We can bicycle anywhere without fear of being sideswiped by cars. And I use a bicycle every day,” Yani told me.
8/ And it appeared to be true. We walked along the road many times indeed and the scene seemed to be like that. And another thing – there were tricycles pedaling for us to use for a cool and leisurely drive of a different sort. Another difference from Bandung - the people here dressed as before in daily living with batik sarong of a distinctive local pattern. The old ways had not much slipped away here.
9/ Speaking of the works in this half, Iwan received [something] from Yono. It was called Wed Action #4 in which someone goes to a wedding. Every time they have these events, people use words and actions related to such things. In actuality, the contact person is Iwan, but when there are problems, it’s Yani, our woman artist friend, who straightens things out.
10/ Yani herself told us that the live performance art we do, though it has been widely known for a long time in Yog Yar, there are not many who appreciate this sort of thing. The other town we were heading for, Solo, was very new to this kind of thing, and it needed explanation.
11/ “And the artists who work in this vein in Indonesia,” I asked, “those who were famous in the past decade, and in our generation – where have they gone? Does anyone carry on their work? Does anyone organize festivals?”
12/ “ Oh, them,” Yani replied. “Some have gone abroad looking for more opportunities. Some show their work abroad and have no time to work at home.”
13/ My doubts materialized in one sense on the day of the performances at Kedai Kebun Forum. As they set it up, it was a really good place, perfect for this sort of performance. The design of the space was open and wide with plenty of equipment. The place was mostly a venue for stage plays. But for this event, neither the organizers nor the audience knew how to manage the works or get them together. Some did too little, some did too much. Guest artists had to solve problems for themselves, as they came up, and sometimes it was quite startling.
14/ Iwan is someone who has experience working in mobs, since the time they drove out President Suharto with student friends and fellow Indonesian citizens. He began with the work ‘Neo Pollock,’ criticizing the ways of Americans. After drinking black coke water, he pisses into a tank that drips urine onto a candle. It makes a picture like that famous American art that was so hot. But Iwan does this differently from the way he used to. The performance is rather insipid. You feel it in the show.
15/ Critiquing the ways of Americans, including the aggressive invasion policies of the American government coming out of the Pentagon seems to be a theme that many artists have picked up for their work. MIDEO CRUZ from the Philippines presented ‘New World Disorder,’ suggesting the chaotic state of the world as a result of what the Americans are pulling. Certainly, coke and the American flag were taken up again and again in Mideo’s work. In the end, the artist disrobes and makes the coke explode from the bottle, sending it fizzing out, as if to signal his success, all over his friends in the audience.
16/ The Thai artist WICHUKORN THANGPAIBOON makes viewers stretch: dressed as superman, he critiques the war mongering and nationalism of the US. The question is, whom do their actions serve?
17/ More about this later.

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