dust and dreams

There’s this short story by horror manga author Junji Ito called “Long Dreams”. In it, we are met with a hospital patient who claims that he is literally living out the years of his life in his dreams. One night’s sleep for him could last one year in his dreams, and as the story progresses, we see the man dream longer and longer dreams in one day until his real-life body has become a hollow, deformed husk. His real body finally disintegrates after experiencing 1000 years of life one night, his soul long since trapped inside his dreams for better or for worse.

Over the past two years, i have been suffering from occasional cases of insomnia. These bouts are not exactly routine, as they can happen at any given night whether i had a good day or bad. In these bouts, it would take me up to 2 to 4 hours to fall asleep, as my mind refuses to shut itself down. The insomnia is not always caused by anxious thoughts or stresses. The mind just runs. and runs. and runs. Positive thoughts, hopeful thoughts, information i may have acquired that day or in the past, scenes from films or tv shows, loops of songs, they all appear in tandem with any anxieties or self-reflective thoughts that i also have. As a result, the brain works like a treadmill, but the machine itself has no killswitch which forces the person running on it to rely on the machine for their condition. The insomnia doesnt happen every night, but when it happens lately, it seems to be getting worse, to the point that sleeping pills (or two) no longer work.

Waking up the afternoon after, would fill me with feelings of frustration and confusion as to why this keeps happening.

In these insomniatic bouts, i am basically living out my life in my thoughts for the night. I can be transported to the best of memories and my mind would make me stay in those memories for as long as it allows me to… which sometimes amounts to hours. Sometimes i’m transported to hypothetical situations where my responses are tested. And worst of all, sometimes i drown in my self-reflection, most of which make me realize the worst of myself and believing them and having my mind confirm those assertions. The latter is what happened in the morning of February 14th, as i mainly struggled to sleep amidst the thoughts of where i currently am mentally and professionally at the supposedly advantageous age of 26. Those thoughts needed no trigger. Even after a great dinner with my partner and going to bed smiling, it can creep up on me just like that.

In these thoughts, time moves slow. As the man in the Junji Ito story, it feels like i am living out days, weeks or years in one night. The man in the story has dreams that haunt him to entrapment: studying for exams for 9 months straight or being a soldier in the dense jungle for 10 years: all of that happening as he felt in the span of one night. His eyes gradually hollow out, his body and face disfigured, no longer capable of seperating dreams and reality.

In my thoughts, i am always the worst creature alive: the laziest worker, the undutiful son, the worst friend. These thoughts i know are not true, but the insomnia severely amplifies it until i believe again.

And to be alone with these thoughts on the way to sleep, my most vulnerable moment, it becomes hard to discern what is real and what isnt. Unless you have someone you love sleeping by your side, all you have for company is your mind.

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Drifting in and out of the dream, the wooden corridors of the inn dissolving into saved images of the real-world ceiling. The fireplace that never dies, still burns but its burn fades in and out into the soft beige of the real-world walls. It was snowing outside, and in the middle of talking about the weather, your face blurred and your body glistened (briefly) before distorting. Everything felt natural, almost like an atmospheric alarm.

It was time to wake up.

corner stones

Behind the doors of a small cupboard at the centre of my room, lies a part of me that has now been relegated to the corner, gathering dust as I grow into a newer person. This newer person that I am is not that much different than how i was before, except where before i vented most of my thoughts and feelings on paper, now i do through music (or the computer keyboard, in another form).

The interest in drawing and in writing was one that i held dearly and embraced as a part of me since my school days. Poetry and just jutting my thoughts down started as far as elementary school while drawing started mainly at the end of high school, but reached its peak circa 2012-2014, as i graduated college and started my first job.

And now four years into that job, the practices are fading away.

One night during a call with Tini, she was showing me some of her old sketchbooks of drawings that she made in her formative years. A lot of her drawings are deep, whimsical and happy, yet dark (which is fascinating, because she isnt really a dark person). Most of her drawings reminded me of her sister’s work, but i know that the darkness that was present in the way she drew was far removed from anything else besides herself. It was nice to see the progress on how she developed through the years into the visceral artist she is today.

Then she asked me if i had any old sketchbooks or notebooks that held my old handwritten material. I told her i did, so i belted to the cupboard to get one of my sketchbooks: the one that i doodled most of my significant drawings of my lifetime, back when i was just finishing college. But as i opened my cupboard, i was met with a big stack of notebooks that i have used in the past to jot down my ideas and pieces of my heart. The realization came. That part of me, the one that expressed through drawings and through writing, is now a relic of the past, shoved to the side, hidden and was probably never going to be touched again if nobody were to ask.

As I skimmed through the old drawings for her to see, my mind processed a parade of emotions simultaneously. I was happy to recall the moments and the meanings of each drawing i did with my partner as i turned the decayed pages, as if we were holding hands down memory lane, with her as the tourist and me as the guide. But at the same time, a severe jolt of wonder belted through my body.

“What happened to me?” “Where did all this visual creativity go?” I once flowed carelessly through visuals and managed to create them out of the absurdest of ideas. I was once in touch with such ideas enough to give them new life in a way i never considered before.

The peak of these all occurred when i was 19 to 21 years old. Now at 26, drawing and poetry seem so distant of crafts. And frankly, looking back in the five years in between, that energy to write or to draw grows more insignificant with each age i step into.

“Nothing peaks before you die,” Tini said. “Maybe you’re just subconsciously focusing all your creative energy on your music right now. Back then you had a lot of outlets, and you didn’t choose one that you wanted to pursue seriously yet. Now you have”.

“Maybe there will come a time when your [personal] creative energy will once again flow to drawing or writing. Things change lah,” Tini assured, admitting her own shifts of creative energy as she grew.

“I used to write and draw a lot of shit in my notebooks, now i don’t even keep a notebook around anymore. Anything i would write down. I dont know, is it because as we get older, we get less expressive?” she wondered.

Tini still keeps a small, special sketchbook that she draws in today, but like me, she doesnt draw or write as much or as wildly as she did years ago. We realized that at least both of us currently have a creative outlet for each of our hearts and minds to splatter and shatter upon.

And as she closed her words, i was able to look at my old sketches and (some) of my old writings in a different light. Actually being happy at the fact that these ideas once flowed in my head and happened on paper. As she did with hers.

 

The death of Kemang’s musical identity

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Where the vibrancy once was on Lower Kemang

Walking through parts of Kemang today feels like walking through desolation. Gone are the vibrant lights that used to light up the area around Jl. Kemang I and Kemang Raya’s intersection, gone also are the masses of people wasting away their nights eating and drinking the night away while their parked cars cause massive traffic. The crowds and the subsequent traffic jams were initially an annoyance for this longtime Kemang resident, but looking back now, I kind of miss it all.

But whenever I am talking about Kemang to someone, I can never talk about it without remembering what a great place it used to be to discover, watch and play music.

I have been living in the same house in Kemang Utara for about 21 years now, since my family moved here to a bigger house to accommodate the birth of my sister, and I have watched this area grow and change drastically. When I was a kid, there used to be a huge skatepark in what was once the Kemang FoodFest area. In my teens, that area was turned into FoodFest, where I’d usually spend time browsing through pirated DVDs, and occasionally eat. Also in my teens, the Aksara store was a place nice enough to check out books and local records (and buy them too of course), before it became a quirky knick-knack store with very little books or records left.

What really made me love Kemang was its vibrant musical identity. Especially for the indie scene, Kemang used to have many places for bands to play and events to happen, and I felt blessed just to live in an area where so much interesting music was being showcased. If a music-loving newcomer were to pass by the lower Kemang area, they would have not known the fun they would have if they had been there a few years earlier.

Not so much as 2 to 4 years ago, the lower Kemang area in and around Aksara and La Codefin (which now houses part of Lotte Supermarket and Happy Puppy Karaoke) used to be teeming with venues. There used to be this small place called Saffron, situated in a small building jutting up out of nowhere at where the Laser Tag place once was. Nearby, those into jazz can enjoy a chill atmosphere at what was probably the best jazz bar in Jakarta, The Red and White (its building now sits literally in ruin).

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The (former) Red and White Club

Go through the dark, back trail (or the front way next the main road) leading up to Aksara and one would have found its neighbor Ecobar 365: a small venue where indie gigs are usually held, which always attracts the liveliest and most raucous of crowds. Take a longer walk to the area behind La Codefin and you’ll find the hipster haven of Treehouse, where interesting DJ gigs happen, sometimes on its parking lot as well.

That one small area of Lower Kemang alone offered hope for indie artists to share their music with the public, and the gigs were not too shabby either. The gig I remember most at Saffron was a debut gig by Efek Rumah Kaca reincarnation Pandai Besi in 2013. It was tiny, but the open air made the music much more enjoyable. It once hosted a Cassette Store Day event that year as well.

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Pandai Besi @ Saffron, 2013
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Where Saffron used to stand

Meanwhile, Ecobar was host to a number of rockin’ gigs, such as the monthly Thursday Noise events and it even hosted internationals, such as American psychedelic duo The Garden and Malaysia’s Killer Calculateur in 2015 (which during their set, I thought they were blown the fuck away by the opening band, Vague).

Members of the Kemang public have given me varying answers to what they think happened to these places. One warung keeper nearby La Codefin, whose been in the area for years, tells me it’s probably because the land owners didn’t want the noise and rowdiness anymore. Another person hanging out at the warung told me that it was a simply a matter of going broke for these venues, because (unless you’re running an established brand), “places that offer live music usually don’t really last long in Kemang”.

He may be right. Saffron and The Red and White did not even last 3 years, while TreeHouse lasted about 6. EcoBar lasted around 8 years but has simply “evolved” into something else. In a district of Jakarta that reportedly charges astronomical rates of rent. Not to mention that most of the land these venues once sat is apparently owned by the Indonesian military. Could the desolate state of lower Kemang be the result of a self-righteous moral cleansing by the uptight, elderly people of the military who are fed up with the noise? I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.

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“This land belongs to the TNI-AD”

But even if it wasn’t, what’s true now is that lower Kemang is an even quieter place than it was two years ago. The land that used to be occupied by these hangout places and venues now sit bored, fading and overgrown behind aluminum sheet fences, their buildings bulldozed from existence. Peering into these fences gives a slight feeling of sadness: what used to be such a lively place is now literally dark and lifeless.

As I wander through the road leading from Kem Chiks to McDonalds, the main changes I saw were mainly the new premium eating and fashion establishments popping up.

A new steakhouse has opened on the very corner connecting Bangka and Kemang Raya, and most of its customers, at a glance from outside, are mostly old people. There’s a new Patbingsoo place opening up at a space near Al-Azhar Kemang that was once used as an art gallery. There’s a premium-looking place, looks like a bar or restaurant, opening on Jl.Kemang I’s small corner hook adjacent to FaveHotel and Amaris Hotel. Ecobar 365 has evolved into a lounge which explicitly caters to the upper middle to higher class, with no music in earshot. While all these new additions have different concepts, to me, they’re all the same. They don’t cater to a wider public as much as music or art may have. Not that the places before catered wholly to the general young per se, but compared to high-end stores and restaurants, music is a lot more welcoming.

Heck La Codefin used to hold music events too! Back when it was an open-air minimall-esque place, it used to hold occasional gigs, usually major indie radio or cigarette sponsored sessions, in their atrium or front outdoor area. Now a large part of that building is taken up by a one massive furniture store, who at one point in 2016 publically advertised on their marquee a discount promo that celebrated the birthday of Donald Trump (I wish I was making this up).

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La Codefin building

Now I’m not saying that the newer, affluent stores opening in Kemang are entirely a bad thing. Any business opening in Kemang deserves the luck they need in making themselves sustainable and successful. Speaking through my ego as an artist and a fan of live music, it is merely the previous identity that I miss and because gentrification is a thing that is killing cultural districts around the world, I’m saddened that it has eaten up the area that was once so musically vibrant.

Of course, the music hasn’t really completely died, mainly for those who enjoy dance floors. Lobbyn, PARC19, FJ on 7 and Lost and Found are still there (with the last 3 places located in the same Lower Kemang are only seconds away), and they all sometimes hold interesting DJ gigs (or small live sets if we’re lucky).

Its no wonder that the indie scene is suffering because Jakarta itself is going through a severe shortage of music venues. There seems to be a cultural shift away from music towards something more materialistic and consumptive. New spaces that have popped up anywhere in Jakarta recently are either stores or eateries: almost no new music venues anymore. Venues generally can’t keep up their businesses when they’re not selling drinks at gigs, except if they manage to become a successful restaurant during the day, which isn’t the case for many. Venues need to cover the rent, and in Kemang, it isn’t possible if they don’t rake in enough.

That’s one of the reasons why my favourite music venue, Café Mondo, was forced to move from their Upper Kemang location by the Kemang Selatan intersection and resettle in the unforgivingly traffic-jammed Fatmawati area, above Rossi Musik. The former Kemang site now sits literally empty, with nobody taking up the space yet. Every time I go by that place, I couldn’t help but feel emotional because of the amazing gigs that happened and the memories I had in specific corners of the Kemang Mondo. But at least this venue, now named Mondo By the Rooftop, still exists (and still keeps it realer than any other venue in the city).

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Cafe Mondo in Kemang, 2014

From the top of my head, the only venue in Kemang that still holds that same musical spirit is the Borneo Beer House, where the venue Tokove was once in on Jl. Kemang Selatan, although I have my fears that they too might suffer the same fate. To an extent, the Basement Café right below Arion Belhotel also holds this spirit as it occasionally hosts indie rock gigs (and once hosted fucking Deafheaven!)

Borneo Beer House, particularly, has become kind of a last refuge for indie acts to perform in Kemang, be them indie rock acts, electronic or DJs. I performed there back in February as Logic Lost, and from what I have felt, it may not be the best venue, but it might be the best we have right now, right here.

Back in October 2014, I remember holding one of my first gigs at Café Mondo, and I discovered that two other huge events were taking place on the same day, in the nearby venues of Ecobar and the Basement Café. I was worried that nobody would show up for my gig because I was going up against a one-off performance by legendary Indonesian psychedelic band Shark Move at the Basement and an indie band that had bigger cred up at Ecobar.

But how many people showed up was not the point.

Having three great gigs happening at three venues not far from each other in Kemang. What I’d give to have that choice today.

(All pics taken by me)

The triumph of the stained heart: how Indonesia’s warped idea of religion forgets the values that religion was built on

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The recent sentencing of a popular Chinese Christian gubernatorial candidate for Jakarta to two years in Indonesian prison was met with almost no surprise by most of Jakarta’s residents. In the recent years, religious and racial intolerance against the Chinese in Indonesia has been spreading at a disappointingly rapid rate.

The old, predominantly Muslim political forces behind the election itself have resorted to using childish and cheap moves by attacking the race and religion of middle-class-favourite candidate Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, and taking advantage of that sentiment effectively to the gullible religious Indonesians. The unfortunate aftermath of the April 19 elections saw Ahok not only lose, but be sentenced to two years of jail over an alleged blasphemy charge over his quotation of a controversial and often-misinterpreted passage from the Al-Quran which states that it is wrong to elect a non-Muslim leader. In the lead up to, during and after the elections, new sentiment against the Chinese race, which Basuki is part of, took to its tensest levels since the riots of 1998, visible both in the streets and in the obvious battlefield of the internet. An era of Muslim dominance has sprung up to the point that many of Indonesia’s citizens seem to forget their cultural roots in favor of an Islamic identity.

Religious fundamentalism is a weapon that is too valuable to be given up by Indonesia’s political elite, as their existence relies on the use and upholding of its ancient, religiously-charged legal and social system. It is like the AK-47: an incredibly powerful weapon that is cheap, deadly and easy to distribute, effective to bring one to their knees and then later having those knees shot, robbing one of the freedom and ability to move, grow and exercise their humanity.

While it may not be the only reason, it is an unfortunately major force that caused the recent Jakarta gubernatorial election to end up how it was and the vicious aftermath of religious and racial hate that followed. There is no indication from the election’s victor, Anies Baswedan, to quell this kind of mindset to stop it from breeding into the future, as it is the force that helped drive away votes for Ahok.

The usage of Islam as a political weapon has discredited the country’s politicians and crooked legal system in the eyes of many even further. In the heat of this discourse, it is easy to forget a religion’s true roots.

In essence, the bare principles of any religion teaches only acceptance, forgiveness, brotherhood and tolerance. The factors of hatred slipped inside are a result of powerful men in history amending the rules of religion to benefit their political agendas, to go to war or to seize power. In the heat of scaremongering, the principles have simply become forgotten.

Even if a religion does teach one to hate in the first place, why do many humans lack the ability (or will) to simply not follow those teachings? It does not cross their minds that it is possible to hold on to a religion while not putting into practice the aspects which contradict the initial principles.

Many have chosen to not do so because many hold on to their pride. Men, especially, have benefitted from the centuries of patriarchy and having the nerve to amend history and distort religion to their own selfish liking, because they know that religion is seen as something that can never be challenged.

Throughout history, the need for kings and generals to engage in war with their neighbours has served as a sign of their frailty. The cultural need for a man to dominate over their women or minorities shows the insecurity and slight fear against an equal and tolerant society, where everyone is accepted as they are. By inserting this idea into religion, and accepting it, it justifies and maintains the man’s dominance over society at all costs: a power that men rarely ever want to give up.

This fact is not lost on Indonesia. Instead of being more welcoming, many of Indonesia’s religious whether they be young or old, rich or poor, academic or non-academic have shown more visible intolerance. In a way, this is an example of social devolution: a step backwards from the proper use of the innovative human brain in favor of utilizing the reckless impulses of the heart. Devolution occurs only if the basic principles that make religion are ignored in favor of everything that goes against it.

This is regrettable for a country which has been described by its foreign allies as a beacon of tolerance.

Tolerance in Indonesia, especially in Jakarta, is now up to those who have come to their senses to exercise a religion’s bare principles to maintain, even if the government does not want to assist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How i couldnt muster the ability to write

I am currently going through a depressive cycle, which fluctuates through the months since the second half of 2016. This cycle has taken a toll on my creativity, particularly on my supposedly legendary writing skills.

At the lowest part of my depression cycle, I was unable to finish reading one paragraph of a book (or any reading materials), couldn’t go through 10 minutes of any movie, 3 minutes of music, let alone get through writing even five words of anything.

The closest thing I got to writing a long form story was a piece of fiction I made a few months ago about an Icelandic band whose members were bickering with each other and then they all died in a plane crash on the way to a festival. Even then, what started out as a coherent story slowly evolved into something nonsensical. There is no way that a guy would be strong enough to throw another guy across a fucking plane when the fucking plane is semi-nosediving at hundreds of miles an hour. There is no way that a physical band argument would take place, standing up, when the plane’s nose is at a diving angle. I’m not good with numbers, or science, at all. The good maths grade I finished with in high school only served the purpose of high school itself, with little usefulness in the International Relations major, or as a print journalist. Anyway, the story itself remains shelved, like a lot of my writings I attempted after the year 2016.

All the poetry I made throughout the years since middle school, I collected in hopes that it would be published into a book someday. The stacks of poetry-filled notebooks and loose papers sitting in a corner of my bookshelf serves as kind of a metaphor: that the era of my writing has neatly placed itself in a section of my life history, never to be opened again. Nothing personal I wrote after the year 2015, I was ever satisfied, and many of the pieces were long gone as a result.

I have worked as a print journalist for the past three years, but it was only in the past year or so that i begun to lose my will to churn out proses, poetry, or even pieces of fiction; a will that had been going strong since elementary school until now.

During the slow climbs towards contentment, the only media I consumed were mainly TV shows, films, music and old opinion articles that were made between 1999 and 2004. This was the most evident when I remarked to one of my friends on a playful WhatsApp group about a screenshot they took of my face on a news program (unintentionally). It wasn’t an episode of COPS, nor did i flash my dick in public. It was a simple press conference. Non-TV Journalists on the field tend to get caught in the line of fire of TV cameras of the TV journalists, yknow, cos we’re all in the same room together, getting the same information.

“Who the hell is this, bin Laden?” I asked as if bin Laden was still a relevant figure while also forgetting that the guy was killed like 6 years ago. The old standup videos of Dave Chappelle and Patton Oswalt, as well as the references to that era of terror peppered in cartoons like The Boondocks, placed me right back into that era’s climate, jokes and references and all.

Why this era, you ask? (or maybe not). I had a pretty good childhood, mainly raised by TV, between 1999 and 2004. The shows and films I watched in that period stuck to me like fly paper to a cat’s behind. But the move was also subconscious. I did not choose to fly back to this era, it just happened. Maybe this part of my history acts as a comfort zone that has proven very difficult to escape.

The George W. Bush era seemed so distant in 2017, for someone who grew up in it and found that the media climate was like any other. This might be how it feels for someone in 2005 who still clung on to the media and references of the Bill Clinton administration. Old grunge heads could never get over Nirvana, as much as old punks never got over The Clash. I guess I never got over classic Cartoon Network.

It was in this era that the ideas for my creativity flourished. The media i consumed acted as the seeds that birthed the pages of poetry and the desire to become a writer in the vein of Chuck Klosterman. But when a tree grows, its roots are placed firmly on the ground and its leaves grow far above the ground that nurtured it. The leaves fall back to the ground only when they are dead.

Anyway, I couldn’t count the times I wanted to stop writing this essay in the time I spent trying to write it, and every time I tried to ignore those desires to stop, continuing to write this essay feels harder and harder, and the pain starts to even become physical. I don’t know how to coherently finish what I’m writing now, and are likely to get distracted and veer off topic or write words that have no relevance or even meaning to what I just wrote above. Purple monkey dishwasher.

But that’s depression, you know? You’re never really happy with what you do or what you create, despite the praise you get for it.

Note: This piece came out 70 percent from how i envisioned it in my head. The incoherency of this whole thing is a direct example of this fluctuating depression.

Friend

 

We deal in righteousness too much, friend.

We flex our moral muscles

Proudly in front of each other

When we learn about death

 

Our tears, become sweat

Our sadness becomes power

The news is our benchpress

Our words are talk radio

And end up as music

But only to our ears

 

You say millions die

And you say people cry

But friend,

Where were you

When they breathed their last sigh?

 

Where was you

When the story went by

When the anchors were lifted high

While these souls

Did not want to fly?

 

 

Death devastates, friend

It is your reason

For your gym membership

It is your reason for your

Million dollar personal trainer

It must be tiring

To flex your fingers

in front of your screen

Isn’t it, friend?

 

Surprise me with your body, friend

Show me that you care

Show me you really know what death is

So that you can be healthy

Without the need to be seen

  • Dylan Amirio, 2013.

MakanMayit intrigues the curious, but frightens the unaware

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[image from “Uzumaki”, by horror manga mastermind Junji Ito] 

Widespread backlash towards a subversive art performance by Indonesia’s premier dark art practitioner Natasha Gabriella Tontey shows the general public’s lack of depth in understanding the true meaning of art.

To ban and censor artwork is to deny discussion around the art itself.

Natasha Gabriella Tontey’s MakanMayit art piece embodies the very meaning and purpose of art itself: that it is also a medium to disturb other than to please. It proves to be “too disturbing” for the Indonesian public, because the general public has been mostly raised with the idea that art is one-sidedly beautiful.

Now I am not saying that everyone should like the MakanMayit performance. Taste is subjective and nobody should be forced to like art. The main problem of the backlash is the response by those online who stumbled upon uploaded and shared images of the piece and immediately concluded that Tontey was a sick woman for her art, or the ones that said Indonesia is simply not ready for this kind of art and will therefore never understand its context.

If that’s the case, then when will we be ready?

Art itself does not demand anything of the viewer. If anything, artists are merely asking for an understanding of how they are through their works. Artists aren’t even demanding the public understand their work, so long as the public recognizes the context on why it was made.

In Indonesian general society, art itself is rarely discussed in its whole form. The stereotypes of art are taught but its depth and meaning is never explored. Without exploration, art can never be understood, nor will its capabilities to make us understand ourselves or the world around us.

Discussion is what fuels the growth of creativity, and by refusing to do so, Indonesia will never be ready to accept what is outside their comfort zone. Tontey earned the appreciation and understanding of her artistic peers because they are used to working in that field, but did not earn the appreciation of a confused public that was raised on the notion that art’s purpose is simply to comfort and entertain. It was harder for her to gain the appreciation of the general public, but her aim was never to win public approval anyway.
The idea of the piece was to explore the primal psychology of the human being through the notion of cannibalism, which has been proven to exist in the human psyche because cannibalism DOES happen, no matter how gruesome or how rare these occurrences are.

One can look at figures such as Japan’s Issei Sagawa, Germany’s Armin Meiwes or even Central African dictator Jean Bedel Bokassa as acting proof that the human desire for human flesh is real. The eating of infants is an extremely rare (if any) level of cannibalism that a human being can practice, but within the psyche, it is indeed possible for a human being to do and nobody can’t deny that. Possible doesn’t mean that everyone chooses to do so, because for many, the act does not speak to their common sense.

A similar situation to what Tontey is facing happened to Chinese contemporary artist Zhu Yu seventeen years ago. Yu’s art primarily deals with the human body and encourages the use of actual human body parts as part of his work. In 2000, he photographed a performance called “Eating People”, where he was depicted cooking and eating a human fetus. The fetuses themselves were later debunked as fake, but it stirred an emotional reaction in China similar to how the Indonesian public and government reacted to Tontey’s art. Zhu was then labelled an official menace to society by the uppity Chinese government who later banned art exhibitions involving things such as culture, corpses, and sexuality.

A sensitive public disturbed by this link to reality will obviously outrage, because they do not understand, or choose not to understand. You can’t blame them though, they were never taught to understand. In Indonesia, no medium exists that discusses art in its purest form and education in its universities are usually too safe or (in the case of public schools), non-existent.

The general consensus here is that art is still seen mainly as happy commodities for sale, for entertainment’s sake, which is also the prevalent attitude seen in creative industries such as music and film. Pure entertainment does not help advance society nor does it challenge them to innovate.

Regarding the offensive aspect of MakanMayit, it makes more sense if apologies were offered to those who have experienced the trauma of stillborn birth. Trauma is not easy to shake and some may not be able to overcome that trauma enough to be faced with artworks that are so subversive. However, apologies should not be given to those who simply cry moral outrage.

Because in essence, morality is an individual setting shaped by one’s own environment and prejudices, and is part of common sense. Common sense is also the ability to recognize art as art, without the need to drag people’s personal beliefs onto it. If one does not like what they’re seeing, they can simply look away.

Common sense is made up of criticality and reasoning, and without common sense, there is no morality.