“An unpressed white linen cloth is tacked to the Kuburan Massal (mass grave) Blitar, Jawa Timur. Red pastel is rubbed over the names of every individual in a vertical manner, stipulating an image of dripping blood. The cloth is removed. An unpressed white line cloth is tacked to the Kuburan Massal of Tulungagung Jawa Timur. The symbols are rubbed with the red pastel. The cloth is removed. The chirp of birds is contrasted with the rubbing, it is eerily silent but always a loud. An unpressed linen cloth is tacked to the Kuburan Massal of Kediri Jawa Timur, the rubbing is deafening, yet Harsono’s process is meditative. An unpressed linen cloth is tacked to the Kuburan Massal of Muntilan Jawa Tengah. Rain drops fall. The final shot is a sea of red. An unpressed linen cloth is tacked to the Kuburan Massal of Yogyakarta. The red pastel is rubbed over the names. The cloth is removed. The temple is quiet.”
Fx Harsono is a contemporary Chinese-Indonesian artist whose recent works explore the themes of identity, self and history. “Pilgrimage to History,” is an evocative performance piece currently exhibited as a collective exhibition at 4A gallery, Chinatown as part of “Tell Me My Truth.” “Tell Me My Truth,” gives form to alternative narratives and histories mediated through technology, fiction, documentary, remembrance, and surveillance to explore what it means to be an individual within a group (Smith, 2015). Harsono’s work explores the politically charged era of Indonesia, through what Harsono describes as a pilgrimage/performance to remember and create the history of the massacred Chinese-Indonesians on Jawa island between 1946-1948 (Harsono, 2015). Harsono places textiles on the mass gravestones, which are then rubbed with red pastel over the names of the individuals buried within the mass graves. The film is eerily silent yet loud, as the rubbing of the pastel over each name creates a deafening sound within the exhibition space. The history of these massacres is poorly documented within Indonesian history, Harsono through personal research since 2008 aims to highlight to a broader Indonesian society that the massacres are “part of our history” (Harsono, 2015). This notion of constructed history explores how one subjectively interprets participation and experience within memory and how through a mediated documentation one can shape and alter historical and political perspectives.
The truth behind identity is mediated through a plethora of tools such as videography, photography and film that we hold true to their representation, yet often they create a material memory that is malleable. Memory, and as an extension of this identity, exist within a messy process of remix, a process exclaimed by Crosby as a negotiation of identity within the tensions of local cultural production, national mythologies and global environment initiatives in relation to environmental activists from Central Java and Blora (Crosby, 2013). This ‘remix’ of identity is altered throughout the politically altering landscape of Indonesia, evident within Harsono’s work as artists and activists challenge the notion of multiple collective identities, generating new visual languages with the possibility for a diverse range of voices to propose ideal relationships in relation to society and nature (Crosby, 2013). Similar to this remix amongst environmental activists of Central Java and Blora, Harsono constructs through selective performance how an amalgamation of identity challenges the perception and interpretation of what it is to explore one’s individuality within the duality of political and cultural landscapes.
“Tell My My Truth” is on now exhibiting a collective of Simon Fujiwara, Helen Grace, Amala Groom, FX Harsono, He Xiangyu, James Newitt, Tony Schwensen, John von Sturmer at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Haymarket until 16 May 2015
Smith, E., 2015, Sydney’s 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art Announce “Tell Me My Truth” Exhbition, The AU Review, Australia, viewed 25 April 2015, < http://www.theaureview.com/asia/news/sydneys-4a-centre-for-contemporary-asian-art-announce-tell-me-my-truth-exhibition >
Harsono, F., Chapman, T., Newitt, J., 2015, Tell Me My Truth @ 4A, radio interview, 2ser, Sydney, Australia, viewed 25 April 2015, < http://www.2ser.com/component/k2/item/14371-tell-me-my-truth-4a >
Crosby, A., 2013, Remixing environmentalism in Blora, Central Java 2005-2010, International Journal of Cultural Studies, 16-257 originally published online 8 February 2013, viewed 25 April 2015, < http://www.academia.edu/2553762/Remixing_environmentalism_in_Blora_Central_Java_2005_-_2010 >
Harsono Fx, 2013, Pilgrimage to History still, viewed 25 April, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGZEBgp8JRc >