i know a place inside my eyelids
where we float
everytime we pill up, ash up, varnish our pores
we’ll make it our home
even without the wilderness
i know a place inside my eyelids
where we float
everytime we pill up, ash up, varnish our pores
we’ll make it our home
even without the wilderness
cared about you
as you slowly deflated
is what keeps it there
is what keeps it alive
whatever you had
you shouldnt keep it
if you want it to feel right
it should elude you until
the time comes for it
to appear again
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.
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.
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
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
[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.
[screengrab from Masaaki Nakayama’s “Fuan no Tane Plus”]
The World as Humans.
Mecca and Indonesia are good friends, as Mecca’s beauty and talents are recognized by Indonesia. But silently, Indonesia admires her father’s wealth and the way he does things, seeing it as a sign of a very “spirited” man, and secretly wishes to become like Mecca’s father.
It is only recently that Australia has began to question her place in the United States’ life as she begins to voice her disagreement to her hero’s increasingly bitchy behaviour to her.
Both grow up and become rich and successful, and both do so with their hard work. Singapore’s high-school bullies now kiss his ass and China has become the richest guy in town. Everyone wants a piece of them. But not all is well in their lives.
China grew up to become a very abusive father, and openly hits his children in public. Singapore never hits his children, but abuses them silently by berating and putting extreme pressure on them behind closed doors. Countries have called out their abusive tendencies, but neither one listens. For countries who have depended themselves on the potential of the brothers’ investments into their lives, they cannot do anything either.
So deep of his hatred toward his only daughter that he even threatens other countries to not be friends with her. Many listen, but many also extend a thin hand to her plight.
Even though the year has dressed itself in radiant colours
A touch of grey and the deepest of black still pops up from time to time,
Like a stain that can’t be washed out
but it slowly blends as one with the rest.
You can wash it many times,
the stain will fade but it’ll still stay.
What can you do?
Wear it cos it no longer ruins your dress
Wear it because it has become the dress.
After all, it’s also colour.
There never was a time when somebody was not in your mind.
You would become devastated if they were to vanish, and you would be paralyzed if they did so by accident.
Holding on to great feelings, desires attached, panic upon what could happen. Diluting the purity, generating a voice which will fill the void.
And yet, even without expectation, theyre still there. And they will always be there as long as you dont think about it. That is how forever is created, and how eternity exists.
If you’re empty
Or devoid of inspiration
Write that emptiness
Draw that void