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Disclosing Undisclosed Expressions For the seventh time, Undisclosed Territory, a performance arts festival was enacted in Solo. Artists try out various forms of expression, often unexpected.


N 2007, artist Melati Suryodarmo ini-

tiated the performance arts festival Undisclosed Territory, on the outskirts of Solo, Central Java. She wanted to show the diverse forms performance art can take. Further, Suryodarmo aimed at making Solo a center of performance art in Indonesia. And Undisclosed Territory is the place to go to in Indonesia to learn to appreciate this medium. As Suryodarmo recently said in an interview, she wants to “encourage people to watch and experience performance arts more and more.” On arrival at the festival venue on the first day two weeks ago, I saw a man stapling grainy black and white portraits to a number of trees. One photo at a time. One tree at a time. One memento mori at a time. Walking up and down the sloping terrain under the searing Solo sun, Waldemar Tatarczuk (Poland) continued to exhaust himself for many more hours to come, extending well into the second day. At one point I thought he would collapse from heatstroke, or that he would disappear beyond the horizon, never to be seen again, though I would imagine still distributing his picture. Tatarczuk’s wandering around was an invitation to take a stroll myself. And I found myself immersed in other performances: Placebo 1 by Jason Lim (Singapore) and Daniela Beltrani (Italy/Singapore); sweet dreams sweet by Suryodarmo (Indonesia); The Book of Nothingness by Halim HD (Indonesia); and Sincerely yours, by AñA Wojak (Australia). These first few hours felt dreamlike, like an immersive, unintended ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’, one performance flowing back and forth in and over into another. Wandering around and making connections between performances was made possible by an absence of wall texts, which was rather liberating: no guidance was offered how to interpret or how to experience the works. Moreover, long duration-

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al performances invite one to postpone judgment on what the works could possibly mean. Lim and Beltrani performed with a thin, golden string. Pulling one another slowly together, gradually tormenting one another by pulling the string tighter around their bodies. While they started off somewhat awkwardly, step by step they moved in tocloser proximity, fingertips finally touching, until they found a way to perform together in union for the first time. While Lim and Beltrani continued their performance, I saw a woman in a white dress wandering through the woods looking out of place. I took a closer look. And I saw a blindfolded figure from a fairytale gone awry. In silence, solemnly lost, or not? Wojak strode on. And I returned to where I left (later I found out that what I had just saw was a prelude of what was yet to come). Here, while Lim and Beltrani prolonged their entangled embrace—on the second day, they performed Placebo 2 with a large glass plate standing tall between them, intimate yet separate—Halim HD pensively painted the virgin white pages of a tome. Sitting cross-legged, he devoted his attention to turning page after page ink black. My reverie unrelentingly went on with sweet dreams sweet: two eerie figures clad in white strolled onto the festival terrain. They sat down, colored their legs in a blue pigment and walked on. While Suryodarmo looked on, her work was performed— art critic Claire Bishop calls this, though perhaps a wee bit too cynically, as the outsourcing of authenticity. Wojak re-entered the scene, walking down the hill, occasionally positioning leaves of paper with a dot of red in the grass. Walking along, I saw a knifed down banana tree, with what was left of it now donned with a red rose on top, a performance by Alam Setiawan (Indonesia) of

which I missed out on seeing. Early in the evening it began to rain and the performance by Ma Ei (Myanmar) was moved to a provisional indoor setting, which obviously changed the context of this performance. Therefore, before she started, she told us that we were free to leave anytime and that her performance would come to a halt when the last person had left. Indeed, a durational performance doesn’t need to mean a durational audience. And then she just sat there with her life-sized doll, trying very hard not to blink, and soon tears were streaming down her cheeks. Luckily the rain didn’t last long, and we went down the hill to find Retno Sayekti Lawu dressed in red on top of some pottery in the middle of a circle laid out with bricks. She performed on top of the pottery all the while rhythmically opening and closing an elegant black umbrella. The way


[3] [1] Halim HD’s black pages. [2] The eerie figure in white [3] Beltrani and Lim in Placebo 1 [4] Tatarczuk’s grainy photos on trees



she moved, with grace, I assumed she had trained as a contemporary dancer, but her background is actually in theatre and she was a novice in performance art. Her Inisiasi was based on a traditional Javanese dance for young girls called Tari Bondan. The next day, she performed once more, this time accompanied by contemporary dancer Fitri Sastrodiharjo. The night was closed by Agnes Yit (Malaysia/Singapore), who performed Drift. Her performance, with the use of bright lights against a pitch-black sky, gave us a sense of our bodies positioned in a temporarily shared space. The next afternoon, she performed Mind Over Matters. The next morning, Tatarczuk was again on his lonesome walk, with nothing leisurely about it. Afrizal Malna performed Di dalam tajam all day long as well. Other performances were by Wen Yau (Hong Kong). Maybe I hung around here a little more than than I should have, as it was also performed the previous night as a one-on-one interactive piece. There was also Left Hand Right by Janusz Baldyga (Poland); a piece by Abdi Karya (Indonesia), who reminisced about his childhood in rural Sulawesi; Suryodarmo’s the dust; and Portrait of Situation: Sweeping by Johanna Householder and Angelo Pedari (Canada), which had a hilarious voice-over by Stephen Hawking explaining black holes (while Hawking himself borrowed a voice to do so). Early in the evening, Wojak took center stage with Sincerely yours, as part of her Love Letters Project, for which Eve Klein (aka Textile Audio) composed the soundtrack. Suryodarmo’s the dust had some theatricality to it, but Wojak went all schmaltzy, which appealed to the romantic in me. For this project, Wojak invited people to send her letters addressed to loved ones (including imaginary and lost ones); these letters became part of an installation and as an ode to these she danced a little rusty waltz at the end. All in all, it was a mesmerizing performance. To close the festival, Tatarczuk came on stage. He requested us to retrieve the portraits he had so arduously attached to the trees. So we went down the hill, retracing his steps left and right, back and forth, creating two piles on stage. As a reward, he served us milk while he burned the two piles to ashes, which he subsequently collected in glasses and mixed with milk. Afterwards, we retreated to Suryodarmo and Halim’s house for drinks and to exchange stories, photos and emails. ● ROY VORAGEN IS A BANDUNG-BASED ART WRITER

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Profile for Roy Voragen

Undisclosed Territory #7  

My review essay of performance art festival Undisclosed Territory #7 in Solo, 2013

Undisclosed Territory #7  

My review essay of performance art festival Undisclosed Territory #7 in Solo, 2013


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