From 25th February until 26th March (this weekend), Sullivan+Strumpf Singapore has been exhibiting works of Australian artist Tony Albert as well as Indonesian artist Timoteus Anggawan Kusno. The works featured are part of KERJASAMA, or ‘COLLABORATE’, a reciprocal visual arts residency launched in 2014, and these artists were selected for the 2016 edition of the programme.
With distinct styles and commentaries on their own culture, the works become an exchange in themselves that gives a glimpse of their individual worlds to viewers.
Popspoken interviews both artists to find out more about their inspirations from each other, the works they have developed as well as their individual culture.
Popspoken: Share with us your experience during this entire residency. Is there a big culture difference, how did you reach out to the locals, etc.?
Tony Albert: There were of course many differences but I was really more interested in what brings us together. Like
Indigenous Australians, I felt Indonesian people were very family and community orientated. There seemed to be
much sharing and good will towards one another. I really enjoyed my time there and I was so well looked after.
PS: Do you personally believe in UFOs? If not, do you believe any myth?
TA: I totally believe in UFO’s and Alien life. Although in my work, the symbolism is much more metaphoric about
the idea of the ‘Other’. I am a complete nerd when it comes to Aliens, UFO, Sci-Fi. I love all things ‘Outer Space’,
it just fascinates me.
PS: How much do you think western iconography has influenced the whole movement of media and
TA: Western advertisement has not only influenced but created its own movement. We, as consumers, need to be
much smarter and educated about who is presenting the media, how they are doing it and from what point of view
their objective comes from.
PS: What attracted you to your chosen subject matter?
TA: I really like to mix things up and try new things. I was having really interesting conversations with locals in
Indonesia about many subjects. I look at my art as a vessel for telling stories and I am grateful when I am interested
to tell someone else’s story. Usually it is a number of events that get to the final subject or idea, I look at this work
as very collaborative.
PS: What do you appreciate about Anggawan’s style of art?
TA: Anggawan is such an exciting young artist who is so inspiring. I love the way he speaks historical truth through
fictitious or mythological stories. It is very clever and poignant. When you mix this with a visually exciting aesthetic
like he does, you are bound to create great Art.
Popspoken: How has this project developed from 2013 until now? Did you expect this presentation for your work right from the beginning?
Timoteus Anggawan Kusno: Well, this project has been developing organically and dialectically as I draw in new people, new ideas and new researches since late 2013. At the beginning, I didn’t expect the outcome of the presentation to be like what I
have been articulating it today. I didn’t exactly have any strict designs or plans on how it will turn out. But over the course of exploration, deliberation and studying, I found that there are more interesting things that were potentially strong and urgent to develop; such as, the politics of Map, Ancient Trading, Mythologies, Colonial Ethnography & Gaze, the Politics of Representation, and so on. Talking to various experts and working with institutions also opened the new possibilities on this narrative. I really enjoy the process, it keeps my engine running and it helps me to learn and share more.
PS: If you can create an institution of your own, what would it be for?
TAK: This is a rather playful yet tricky question. I think I would love to establish an institution which de-institutionalize institution and vice versa. Another idea would be to create an institution, like a museum, which merges the contemporary art and museology, in the sense of collecting the grounded and ‘marginalized’ historical narratives or personal/collective memories, instead of following the order of formal & top-down historical narratives. I think it will be quite refreshing to give alternatives on how we see and relate ourselves to the past.
PS: What attracted you to your chosen subject matter?
TAK: Growing up in a remote area in Bengkulu instilled a love of adventure in me. Ever since I was a child, I would love to walk and play in the nearby forest with friends. Once, I was chased by a wild boar near my village. Some neighbors saved me and they speared that poor animal. There was another event where a baby tiger entered our village and my friend’s father put that animal in a cage. He invited people to see it in his front-yard as a sign of power. Back then, my father would take me to historical sites that were built during the colonial period and he would tell me stories. My mother is a great storyteller as well, her childhood were filled with adventures in nature.
As a teenager, I moved to Java and lived in an urban area with my grandmother and aunty. All of those childhood adventures and mysteries remained as strong memories in my mind. Sometimes, I would dream of those times; the humid forest, the towering trees, wild animals, waterfalls, the river with bridges made from coconut trees, and so on. When I look at etchings, or photographs made during the colonial period, it would evoke memories from my childhood, which enticed me to study ethnography and conduct some ethnographical researches during my time in university. I learned more about the history, the gaze, and the culture; something more problematic and really complex. It transformed the ‘exotic’ experience into a reflection that is more ideological.
I was taught to learn that ‘history’ was ‘the truth’ of the past. When I was in school, I wasn’t aware of the construction that lies behind it. And as the mono-verse truth, the formal history gave me a clear path to relate myself, seeing and judging the black and white of the past, ideologically. I used to find the memorizing of the details of history a boring experience, but once I read a Roman novel from Multatuli, entitled Max Havelaar, books & writings from Pramoedya Ananta Toer during my high school and it changed my perspective of things. It gave me a profound insight and it opened up various possibilities to re-imagine history. ‘History’ became a possibility, a liminality, a wide and wild space, as mysterious and grey as the idea of ‘future’. History is a ‘wild and humid forest’. It made me aware that there’s a feudalistic structure and cultural aspect which mingled and lubricated the exploitations over millions of people in the so-called ‘Colonialism’. Sadly, in this post-colonial context, the exploitation still exists albeit in a different form, reproduced in a more subtle manner.
PS: What do you appreciate about Albert’s style of art?
TAK: Tony Albert is an excellent artist and a good friend. The language that he uses in his practice raises and questions the topics that have been taken for granted in our society. His works are thought-provoking, critical, and delivered in an intelligent way. And what makes it more special is that Tony really embodies his beliefs and, holistically, with various aspect of his life. Based on our experience in Alice Springs and Jogjakarta, he is truly encouraging to the community, giving them the support they need.