I was at Lemah Putih [White Earth], Suprapto centre in Solo, for the second day of an international performance art festival curated by Pak Prapto's daughter Melati Suryodarmo, a German-based performance artist.
Lemah Putih is located on the hilly outskirts north of Solo. Once fairly isolated it is now surrounded by small shops and near a housing complex where the puppeteer Slamet Gundhono lives. Prapto's 3 hectare complex has a variety of traditional buildings (pendopo), a shrine to Maria, a mandala, various megalithic-like stone structures, terraces, hills, shaky foot bridges and gardens. The festival took place all over the compound, responding to its unusual features. While the weather was uncooperative (it rained heavily between about 4 and 5pm) and the turnout was not huge, the work was consistently interesting, if not always cogent.
In '(At) Tension,' Jason Lim unrolled a roll of tape around the pillars of a pendopo and leaned against the tape, playing with the sounds and tension of the material.
Su-En, a Scandanavian butoh dancer, dressed in a tight-fitting red dress, cut open tropical fruits on the grass and lay down in the middle of them in her piece 'Fruitful.' She then squeezed out the juice on to her own body. An audience member commented loudly 'bagus.... bodinya.'
After the rain stopped, Willem Willhelmus performed 'Nail.' He gathered a small crowd around him on the grass and handed out small nail clippers. We trimmed our nails together in silence. Then he dropped some nails into the ground. He hammered them in so that they formed the outline of his body. He then dropped the hammer into a puddle. I asked him afterwards if he wanted his nail clipper back and he said it was mine to keep - for which I thanked him.
After a break, the evening performances started. Suprapto created a happening that went on for about 2 hours (though I only saw about 30 minutes of this). He was buried in soil and rice stalks were planted on top of him. While this was going on, a young man dressed in a loincloth danced atop a pedestal with a rod on top of his head. A beautiful young woman in traditional Javanese costumes slowly descended the stairs, dancing with a lamp in her hand. Artists drew rough images of a face in red and planted the canvases in the grass. A slompret played on and off. Three men pounded a gong into shape. A large sheet glass was placed on top of the mound that is Suprapto. It shattered - perhaps unintentionally. Water from a plastic bag suspended high above the mound dripped on the glass. Suprapto emerged from the mound and moved slowly and dramatically. He then soaked himself in a vat of water. And the piece went on.... (Earlier in the day Suprapto had spoken about various sorts of tapa or harsh devotions, including tapa pendem, and it is likely the work had something to do with this.)
Juliana Yasin, a part-Chinese part-Malay Muslim performance artist from Singapore, perforemd 'Centre of Emptiness' in the mandala. She walked around the mandala slowly with a candle in hand. Candles were handed out to audience members who planted them around the mandala.
Rakini Devi performed two short pieces dressed in neo-kali makeup and costume. Calcutta Underground 1, at the gua maria, involved the grimmaces of kathakali and slow dancing. Calcutta Underground 2, at the pendopo besar, involved dancing in shadow and faster dancing ala bharatanatyam. I sensed this was ironic - but it was hard to say why. Perhaps kitsch is a more accurate descriptor.
Yogya-based Mella Jaarsma performed 'Follow Me.' She sewed a small container out of a miniature red and white flag, emptied her wallet of its contents and put a photo inside the container. She then had us walk to the garden with her where she moved the container on her finger next to a man waiving a flag. A bamboo pole was next to them, weighted down with various flags. Clearly this had something to do with the upcoming elections.
Melati Suryodarmo and Boris Nieslony concluded the formal programme in a joint piece titled '(?) tiada akhir (?)'. Boris grimmaced and crumpled paper and shouted in an autistic fashion. Melati in contrast, dressed in a bright red skirt with a traditonal biskop jacket of the sort worn by priyayi men, sat on a chair and slowly and carefully created ornaments out of glossy white ribbon which adorned her costume. I read this as a postcolonial critique of the traditional Javanese aristocracy - busy with creating their own honours, inattentive to the world outside.
Then followed an 'open session' in which various audience members/artists joined in the tableau. It was late and we left.