PARADE OF BUTS
Photography, Video installation, Resin installation, and Performative work
Parade of Buts is a project that conducted during Yaya Sung's residency time in Cemeti Art House: Makan Angin #1, March - May 2014. As an artist who lives in Jakarta, Yaya Sung sees the artistic space of Yogyakarta as rather ideal, where the process of building an idea is as important as the final work. With the opportunity to undertake a residency in this rather “ideal” space, she proposes questions that test this conception of the “ideal space”; if every space itself has its own challenges and problematics, then what is this “ideal space”? Do people in an ideal space also have fears, and what are they afraid of? These questions moved Yaya to investigate this through direct and indirect interactions with people within the network. Direct interactions were produced through discussion groups and interviews, indirect interactions were implemented by way of a “box for sharing fears” that she placed at the school of art, photography communities, and several other art spaces in Yogyakarta. People could share their fears on a sheet of paper and contribute them to the box. Looking for solutions to problems that had been found turned out not to be the main purpose, but the network of relations to emotional events that occurred between her and the people with whom she interacted became more important. Yaya then came to a new awareness that an ideal space consisting of various phenomena may in fact imply other things than the city, such as the human body. Mental phenomena that intertwine within it are the result of the action-reaction process that different substances undergo as they enter the body. - Linda, Cemeti Art House
Parade of Buts project created during my residency time in Cemeti Art House, it explores the relation between the feeling of fear, the human body, and edible substances. Fear is a feeling. An emotion, that doesn't have a form. Something abstract. There is an interesting relation in the fragility of a human body that is a vessel of our abstract emotions, and food, an edible substance from the ‘external’ that we deliberately choose to enter the vessel, could affect our emotional status. Being a young artist myself, I have my doubts and fears. It takes courage to admit that we are afraid, especially these days, when artist might be seen as the inventor of something new. The artist expected to be the master of what they do. To talk about fear would have risk of people perceiving you as weak. Whether we realize or not, fear exist. Fear comes from the ‘internal’ sides when we consciously or unconsciously sense threat from the ‘external’ sides. What also interesting is that there are never any definitive marks for what is threat, when we talk about threat, we also talk about opportunity. Thus why not examining fear by not only experiencing it, but also play with them using our intuition and perception? - Yaya Sung
Speculations on Food, The Body and Autonomy
In 2009, W was still eating dog meat. His favourite dog meat stall was in the vicinity of Malioboro. At the food stall, W usually enjoyed battered fried dog meat, or dog meat cooked with spices. Like almost all of the stalls that sold dog meat, W's favourite didn't advertise itself as a specialist in processed dog meat. They called themselves purveyors of B1 meat, perhaps so that it sounded more dignified. After 2009, W stopped eating B1. The reason being, around the same time, he began keeping a pet dog. Why would keeping a pet dog mean W would no longer eat dog meat? W answers that he couldn't bring himself to do it. It wasn't just W; a number of his friends who also took up raising dogs eventually stopped eating this meat. Only one among W's friends kept eating dog meat, and according to W, his friend was not particularly close to his dog.
The matter of eating is not merely a matter of the stomach, but also of emotion. The reality that the things that we love in this world will not last forever is certainly hard to accept. Even more so if that which we love is dead, so that we can live on and enjoy their death by eating them. So I understand why W and his friends stopped eating dog meat because of their fondness for their pet dogs. If feelings of fondness can prevent a person from eating dog meat, perhaps the same could be relevant to the eating of human meat. The act of eating human meat is even regarded as evil even when no living human has been injured in the process. The 2003 case involving Sumanto horrified the public because he destroyed graves and ate the remains of the corpses he found therein. Sumanto did not hurt any living humans, but he was still prosecuted for disturbing and thieving from graves, which was a criminal offence. Sumanto was eventually sentenced more harshly that the law required, because his actions were considered inhumane and offensive to the families of the buried corpses. (www.suaramerdeka.com/harian/0301/20/nas9.htm). There is sense of injury, because although they are dead, in the body of a human the feelings of the family and others around remain attached.
Not only associated with feelings, every human body is continuously being evaluated by itself and those around it. The working body attains monetary value like money. Physical age is the primary variable in the formation of categories of productivity that determine when people will achieve their highest level of profitability. The human body functions to reproduce and attain new life. The bodies of humans and other living things are never merely animated collections of meat and bones. The body is the vessel for, and the product of, belief, memory, and emotion and is in the end, a form of culture. Diana Taylor (2003) described knowledge that becomes one with the body and is never written. Knowledge like this is continued through dance, ritual, burial and spoken word.
In the wealth of these intentions, it is an aberration if the body is deprived of the values and becomes a mere object. This is the body as an object that has lost its power. This is the condition created when a body is eaten. Food is organised into two parts, the subject that eats, and the object that is eaten. Eating is an act of control enacted by the subject as eater over the object that is eaten. Thus eating and food are often used as a metaphor or a symbol for a conquest over something. I began writing this text by reading Margaret Atwood's novel The Edible Woman (1969). In this novel Marian, the woman who is the main character, loses her appetite for food when she feels controlled by her fiancée and those around her. In the foreword, Atwood emphasises that at the beginning and end of the book, Marian is in the same condition; a stagnant career or marriage as a way out. The woman that can be eaten is a figure who is ready to give up and who has lost her power.
The same metaphor also works for the work of Yaya Sung in this instance. At the beginning of her residency at Cemeti, we often discussed the fears and uncertainties we face. Yaya's concerns are those of an artist the midst of the jungle of visual art. My concerns are as a curator, uncertain whether I can believe in my practice as curatorial work. Perhaps these concerns are what connect us, perhaps also because we are around the same age.
After much discussion, note-taking and scratching out ideas, Yaya decided to seek reflections of personal feelings through discussion groups, interviews, and 'poll boxes' distributed at the openings of a number of exhibitions. Through these boxes, Yaya asked about each person's biggest fear. The answers could be written anonymously on a piece of paper and slipped into the 'poll box'. I think Yaya found no solution for her own concerns. In fact she discovered a number of concerns and anxieties that every person has. Then, how did Yaya build a narrative with these discoveries through her work?
Yaya took a mold of her ears, hands and face, then cast them as resin forms so that they would be transparent, Yaya made a special room, with three videos and a dining table amongst them. The three videos showed the life cycle of a sack of potatoes, from the market, to boiling and eventually to their destruction on the plate; water dropping continuously onto lumps of sugar; and a mouth busily chewing. Yaya made a container of fortune cookies, hiding slip of paper inscribed with poetic words in each.
In her work, Yaya uses food as a symbol for emotions of worry, stress, and loss of self control. The self has no power or autonomy, so it becomes the object of other powers, like flavoursome food that is ready to be eaten as soon as it is cooked. Perhaps this is also Yaya's way of re-using the idiom :goreng menggoreng' that arose in discussions in 2008-2009. Artists, who should be fully independent in what they produce, lost control on a number of occasions and gave themselves up to the market's mechanisms, strategically using popular themes or becoming lost in the emergence of other artists and their newest styles. Perhaps the artists' autonomy is among those things that must continually be struggled for? Perhaps even pure, ideal autonomy is merely an illusion, because negotiation is always necessary. The metaphor of being 'eaten' or 'becoming food' is the most extreme condition in which self-autonomy is lost. However the form of autonomy itself requires a complex process, involving the creation of knowledge, ritual and even emotion.
Looking at Yaya's work, no information is presented directly. Yaya uses particular colours, textures or even visual rules. She uses a long and convoluted route to replicate the emotions that she has discovered through food and the body as a symbol. Perhaps in the face of Yaya's work, the viewer needs to believe in the body as a sensation that is felt as a tool for thinking. But once again, this is merely speculation.
Syafiatudina (KUNCI Cultural Studies Center)