Indonesian Pavilion at 56th Venice Biennale
Voyage – Trokomod
Commissioner: Sapta Nirwandar
Deputy Commissioner: Soedarmadji JH Damais
Curatorial Team: Carla Bianpoen, Restu Imansari Kusumaningrum, Asmudjo Jono Irianto
Heri Dono (born 1960) is Indonesia’s leading contemporary artist, the first Indonesian contemporary artist to break into the global art scene in the early 1990s, who has since then been participating in no less than 27 international biennales. He is also the only contemporary Indonesian artist to have been invited to the Biennale Arte’s own curatorial exhibition in 2003 (Zone of Urgency), Angels, mythical monsters and the Trojan horse are three recurrent metaphors in Heri Dono’s oeuvre of more than two decades of fusing the local with the contemporary. Consisting of painting, installations, video art and performance, his bizarre, grotesque images that hover between frightful and witty, satirical and moqueing appearances commenting on social and political situations have been inspired by the Javanese folk theater, the wayang, as well as by cartoons, comics and daily situations.
Curatorial Text by Carla Bianpoen:
From the early beginning of his artistic engagement, Heri Dono has consistently aspired to set right what he thought was wrong. For Heri, art is not just about exploring the beauty or the aesthetic but to give awareness to the audience. “Artists have a moral responsibility to add to the global conversation, and inspire people with awareness of what is going on in their environment and in the world at large.”
In the Indonesian Pavilion which is themed “Voyage”, Heri Dono presents his site- specific work, a fusion of the Trojan Horse and the Indonesian Komodo dragon (dubbed Trokomod), shaped as an amphibious hybrid “animal” of 7.5 x 3 x 3.5 meter. With this hybrid ‘vehicle’ which encompasses his entire world vision where East and West merge, he explores the state of the world, at the same time exploring his place and the country’s in the global constellation of nations. “Indonesia has for most of the time been a blank spot on the world map, he asserts, now is the time to speak up’. With this he wants to show another way of asserting power.
While the appearance of Trokomod may be frightful, the interior presents a soft power using material like rattan, and a ceiling covered with a canvas on which batik symbols of all religions denote the wish for peaceful religious pluralism, Trokomod’s voyaging through history and plying the oceans between cultures is the culmination of his critical views about global and local cultures, about political, geopolitical and social situations at home and in the world, and about Western hegemonies that he used to reveal with a lot of humor and a touch of human benevolence. Trokomod, however has added an etchy touch.
An important part of the work is Heri Dono’s ethnographic imaging. Contrary to a traditional display in an ethnographic museum which traditionally displays exotic cultures from a Western point of gaze, Heri Dono switches roles showing Western icons as we perceive them from the other part of the world. This follows his belief that it’s an artist’s moral responsibility to inspire people with awareness of what is going on in the world and to balance the global conversation.”
Within the ‘animal’s interior, visitors can peep through telescopes to see artifacts and images of important cultural significance that is perceived to have marked the Western world, and operate the periscope showing selected markers of Indonesian and Eastern significance.
Traditional vessels of the past that mutated in the course of time, are hanging above the hybrid animal fusing memory of Indonesia’s maritime position in the past and a view for the future.
As a whole, Heri Dono wants to signify the past, the present and the unknown but hopeful future.
Image: Heri Dono. Photo: RosaPanggabean, Courtesy Indonesian Pavilion