TULISAN / WRITINGS

My Writings on Cobra Magazine

Blink, Glance, Gaze of an Active Agent

Blink, glance, gaze atau kedip, kilas, tatap merupakan tajuk pameran yang diusung oleh Mitha Budhyarto, selaku kurator pameran saya dan Angela Judiyanto. Awalnya saya ingin mengulas tentang karya-karya yang pada tanggal 2 November akan mengisi ruang galeri Dia.Lo.Gue, namun pembahasan mengenai ‘ways of seeing’ sebagai introduksi pameran, terasa lebih tepat.

Mengapa proses ‘melihat’ menjadi begitu penting?

Saya ingin bercerita sedikit tentang pengalaman mengunjungi pameran “Design Ah!” di 21_21 Design Sight, Tokyo beberapa bulan lalu. Sebuah pameran yang berbasis dari program pendidikan di stasiun TV NHK. Pameran ini menyoroti fungsi desain yang menjadi elemen substansial di dalam kehidupan, baik di dalam tubuh politik, ekonomi, sains, maupun aktivitas sosial. Dari bermacam permainan visual yang menggelitik sensitivitas indera mata, kulit, dan telinga yang dipamerkan, tulisan Yugo Nakamura yang ditujukan untuk anak-anak, menjejakkan kesan yang paling dalam.


To Children

Most of “making” is about “seeing”. The start of making things has its roots in the things I have seen until now. In this world, what and how we “see” is the foundation of all things “created”. The first thing I thought of on this children’s program “Design Ah!” was on this act of “seeing”

Many beautiful and interesting things lie hidden around us. If there was one thing that you could “see” only with your own eyes without telling a single soul; that would be something for you alone… your own private world. Revel in the joy of something from it…and show it to everyone. And I promise you, that “your” bountiful creation is sure to bring bounty even to the next “you” who sees it.

This “Design Ah! Exhibition” shows many things in many ways. But just like “Design Ah!” on TV, remember that “you” are the one “seeing”


Motivasi dan dorongan positif yang begitu kuat untuk berbagi pengalaman ‘melihat’ sudah ditanamkan sejak dini. Usaha yang baik ini datang dari pemerintah, akademisi, hingga praktisi seni. Saya iri melihat penduduk Tokyo yang setiap akhir pekan dapat berkumpul bersama keluarga, mengunjungi museum-museum yang sangat baik. Hidup dan bekerja di Jakarta, kita terdidik menjadi pribadi konsumtif dalam lingkup ruang mall ibukota, terdidik untuk menghabiskan sebagian besar hari di dalam kemacetan, terbiasa mengunyah berita tentang kehidupan pribadi selebritis hingga aib para wakil rakyat, bagai kerupuk udang gurih, yang menjadi pelengkap di jam makan siang. Mari mengeluh bersama, sebentar saja.

Semua hal yang kita telan dan rasakan, setiap kedipan, kilasan dan tatapan pada objek yang sama memberikan rasa, makna, dan impresi yang berbeda pada setiap lidah dan dua bola mata yang ada di dunia. Taku Satoh, exhibition director dari program Design Ah!, berkata “As we enter an age of instant access to giant pools of information, how we go beyond passiveness and willingly feel, choose, and broaden our minds toward the things that matter in our lives is becoming an issue of ever-greater importance.” Apakah harum kopi saat hujan pagi, atau rasa geram ketika melihat kemacetan Jakarta yang berdarah dingin dapat menjadi jejak awal terciptanya sebuah kreasi visual? What’s stopping us from coloring the world with our own standpoint? Mungkin ini mengapa sebuah “kejujuran dalam berkarya’” menjadi sesuatu yang sangat klise dan sering terucap. Mengutip Marshall di TV seri How I Met Your Mother, “A cliché is a cliché for a reason. It's comforting.” Setiap individu memiliki naluri alami untuk mencipta, dan terlebih untuk didengar. Penciptaan yang dimulai dari rasa nyaman, memiliki titik balik kecintaan terhadap ‘our own ways of seeing’.

Satu pertanyaan yang jawabannya mungkin datang saat mata terpejam, apa yang sering mengganggu ‘kenyamanan’ dalam proses mencipta? Seorang “active agent” nalurinya terus berupaya agar satu kisah manis, satu pertanyaan, satu keputus-asaan, atau segala proses kognisi yang niscaya terus tercipta selama sang agen bernafas, menjadi suatu bentuk konkret yang memiliki daya. Ungkapan “active agent” yang sangat baik ini saya temukan di dalam buku John Berger, Ways of Seeing.

If the new language of images were used differently, it would, through its use, confer a new kind of power. Within it we could begin to define our experiences more precisely in areas where words are inadequate. (Seeing comes before words.) Not only personal experience, but also the essential historical experience of seeking to give meaning to our lives, of trying to understand the history of which we can become the active agents.

“Seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.” Berbagi cerita dengan kreasi, terus hidup, dan menjadi active agent. Dari kilas, menjadi kedip, kemudian mantap menatap.

 

Jakarta, Oktober 2013
Yaya Sung


Blink, Glance, Gaze of an Active Agent di majalah Cobra: [link]

Blink, Glance, Gaze - wide
Blink, Glance, Gaze - wide

Jalan Kemenangan

What is it about this place that is so important? Why is there a need to make an exhibition about this particular area?

Jalan Kemenangan (Victory Street – literal translation) is the name of a street in an area called Glodok. People often said that Glodok is the “Chinatown” of Jakarta. I visited this place many times before, without paying any attention to what was around me. Revisiting this area again many years later I began to think about how to trace the culture and story of my family. Fragments of bitter and sweet memories linger on its streets, corners, and alleys.

This is an area that once was my playground, where I played with friends and family, where I walked after school to buy an ice cream, drinks and snacks. Sometimes I accompanied the nanny to buy food supplies from the traditional market, and watched a group called “Acau” who sell traditional Chinese medicines (pills and ointment) by doing some street-circus entertainment to attract people to buy their product, was always the highlight of my afternoon.

The fact that I, unconsciously, spent my entire childhood in the heart of Chinatown doesn’t wash the unsure feeling away. The unsure feeling about the identity and culture I belong to.

If I never left this area, would I not question my culture and identity? What about the people who are still living in the area? Do they feel the same way as I do?

Families who live in the heart of Chinatown, are also fully aware that the practice of Chinese tradition is surely fading. Globalization and modernism certainly contribute to this process, but what about the Suharto regime? “Suharto banned and dissolved the three pillars of the Chinese culture overseas: ethnic Chinese organizations, Chinese medium schools, and Chinese language press. He also restricted the development of Chinese religions.”[1]

The aggressive movement toward the “Indonesialization” of the Chinese leaves a great impact on the younger generation even after the new order regime. During that time, parents who wanted their kids to learn Chinese language could not find schools that teach it, cultural practices were secluded and forced to go underground.

An inventory made by the anti-discrimination organization Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa (SNB) published in Dua Tahun Solidaritas Nusa Bangsa Melawan Rasialisme (Jakarta: SNB, 2000, Appendix), shows that there were 62 laws and regulations from the late colonial period through to the Suharto regime (inventory is only until 1988), explicitly or implicitly discriminatory towards the ethnic Chinese. Of those 62 regulations, 42 had been enacted during the New Order Regime. There were 8 from the colonial period, 12 from the Soekarno regime and 3 from the MPRS. It is clear that under Suharto, state discrimination was the most blatant, most intrusive, invasive and intimidating to the ethnic Chinese.[2]


Jalan Kemenangan went through a dark time when the anti-Chinese riots of May 1998 occurred. When angry mobs looted and burned the Glodok Plaza, the fire also spread and burned down some houses located behind the Plaza, in Kemenangan I . One of those houses was my grandparents’.

I had a hard time doing interviews with some of the people who reside in Jalan Kemenangan, it’s very distressing to reminisce about the tragedy. Some of them avoided me as I approached them with my camera perhaps thinking I was a TV reporter. “All photos, birth certificates, clothes, books were burned out, and it was painful.” Their houses burned down. Left with ruined and debris, the written and visual proof of their life existence gone, consumed by the fire.

But was that the important issue here?

The psychological pain is far more concerning than the loss of material possessions they experienced. Not to mention the racial discrimination, which even went as far as forcing the victims to change their names and therefore their cultural identity.

The original idea for this exhibition was to trace memories of the people who live in the heart of Chinatown in order to find out whether a small section of this area could give a bit of insight to our socio-political history, to answer, and to clarify the position of ethnic Chinese culture in Jakarta. Through doing this project I have found out that memories cannot construe history, as Richard White said in his book, Remembering Ahanagran “History is the enemy of memory. The two stalk each other across the fields of the past, claiming the same terrain. History forges weapons from what memory has forgotten or suppressed.”

To say it in a simple way,

History, as written on a piece of paper is a record, and a study of past events. Memories are a set of chains. Chains consisted feelings, thoughts, impressions of past events. This is where I decided to delve more into matter of memory and history. Which should one choose to investigate to answer their questions? History is much more relevant, yet memories have the power to connect with people.

What continues to astonish me is that despite the discrimination and aggression that the victims suffered, they would still prefer Indonesia under the Suharto regime as he created a “better” economic situation.

Why would the victims prefer to welcome and embrace the hands that erased their real identity? Why should one be concerned about highlighting the loss of the victims’ identities when all they want is to move on and stack more bricks to new life? Under what circumstances would someone is willing to sacrifice their identity?

Jalan Kemenangan will not engage any answers to your or my questions. The answers will remain indistinct. Its aim was not to console, but to provoke… not to remain pristine but to invite its own violation and desanctification, not to accept graciously the burden of memory but to throw it back at the town’s feet.[3] This project is part of an ongoing journey that unexpectedly continues to generate more questions rather than answers.

Yaya Sung
February 2013, Yogyakarta


[1] Suryadinata, 2010, p.44

[2] Suryadinata,  2010, p.85

[3] Young, 2000, p.131

The more I’m pulling away from you, the more I become the better version of myself.

Hi how are you?  I realise my blog was in hiatus for quite a while. I just got back from my trip to Hongkong and China. So yeah, I’m home now. I don’t feel good though being home. When I said home, I meant the city where I born and raised.

Oh boy, how Jakarta’s traffic depresses the hell out of me.

The thing is, I very much enjoy walking to the nearest park to read books, walking to bus stop, taking tubes, buses to go for a culinary trip, meeting friends on the other side of town, or going to the museum every weekend. I very much enjoy that. With bad public transportation system and paranoid mind like mine, it’s so much better to take private car to wander this city. What can you do when you constantly trapped in the car, in the street? I got dizzy every time I read a book in the car – not in the plane or train though, so I tweet, text friends, or probably sleep. Worse is when you have to drive yourself, which is very exhausting. Everywhere you go, you sort of trapped in a way.

The whole process you got to go through to get from hypothetical A to B is wasting so much time, energy and rather uninspiring.

At least I should be thankful for I could drive around with a car though, cause I’ve used public transportation in Jakarta several times, mostly while I was in high school. Trust me, it’s even more depressing than the traffic itself. They own the street, you know, those drivers. They cut lines, and stop whenever they want to. Well, I did a lot of walking while I was in HK and China, although my feet went sore by the end of the day, I sure as hell won’t complain about it. I like to walk. It’s the thing/exercise I’m very lack of in Jakarta. –That, if you don’t count walk in the malls as ‘the walk’. I spent most of my times in Shanghai. All cars in Shanghai drive like mad. Apparently they’re very fond of honking and very reluctant on hitting the brake, I’m serious, but they have good transportation system though, so to me, they’re OK.

Lovely thing about taking public transportation such as bus, train or tube is the experience of seeing and observing strangers. Their clothes, shoes, glasses, what kind of newspaper-magazine-book they read, their body languages and facial expressions, it all somehow excites me.

Sometimes I imagine and even make up their story just for the sake of fun. How this particular lady got cigarette burns at the bottom of her pink wrinkly skirt, and what’s on this old fellow mind, looking through the window with his hand tucked into his jacket. Was he thinking of the good ol' days? He looked very old, I'm guessing around 60-5, he has big dark circle under his eyes and a set of happy brown eyes, it looks happy because it shines. He’s probably on his way to meet his grandchildren. I bet he’s holding a gift for them right in his big puffy jacket, he won’t let go of it, so he won't lose it, and what kind of games these kids in front of me were playing? They looked like they had helluva time, giggling and push each other around. Boy was it nice to be kids and all. All and all, my mind is running like mad, and - voila! I've reached my destination. It’s time to get off of this inspiration box.

Now when you think about it, they (buses, trains, tubes) are like a moving, running boxes filled with interesting and inspiring living things. How can you not love it?

I write and read a lot during my trip to China, especially in Shanghai and Beijing, will try to make new artwork out of it, I will post pictures and stories later, but right now I need to deal with this awful feeling, geesh I’ve been here for only 2 nights and sick of it already? The only good thing about Jakarta is that most of my good friends live here. Is that all? I don’t know, maybe I should write down the lovely part of living in Jakarta, cause I’m sure there’re so many of it. I’m sure. Yeah.

But for now, my feeling for you leans toward bitter.

Oh Jakarta,

Why do I feel the more I’m pulling away from you, the more I become the better version of myself?

x

the inspiring chef José Andrés

Great people are passionate people. They shine everytime they do their job or as talk about it. I get so inspired by watching how chef José Andrés, the avant-garde food visionaries, having so much fun doing what he did, how he delightedly explain the cooking technique he uses in his food, and how an ingredient as simple as pineapple could excites him, it is amazing. Check out the video here! (i can't embed the video, so if you want to see it via youtube: CBS)

“ When I cook, I’m not going to lie to you, I’m very selfish — me and my team. We need to please ourselves. We need to make sure that we are convinced of what we are doing and eating, and that we see ourselves in the dish we are creating. If I don’t please myself, it’s impossible I will be able to please you.”
— José Andrés

What he said applies in every point of creative field, whether you’re a chef, designer or photographer. Having fun should be the essential core and it’s also necessary to put our signatures in the work we do. It’s what defines us, it’s what differentiates us from others, or if you will, unique.

What I learned from watching this video is that, it's nearly absurd to suck at your job when you're so passionate about it. Embrace every little details you might not notice in a first place, because inspirations could come from a simplest form of life. ♥

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Thank you chef José Andrés for the inspirations, how I wish to taste one of your creation one day :) Have a delicious Sunday, everyone.

xx