Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Song by Leonard Cohen

"Anthem"

The birds they sang 
at the break of day 
Start again 
I heard them say 
Don't dwell on what 
has passed away 
or what is yet to be. 
Ah the wars they will 
be fought again 
The holy dove 
She will be caught again 
bought and sold 
and bought again 
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs 
the signs were sent: 
the birth betrayed 
the marriage spent 
Yeah the widowhood 
of every government
signs for all to see. 

I can't run no more 
with that lawless crowd 
while the killers in high places 
say their prayers out loud. 
But they've summoned, they've summoned up 
a thundercloud 
and they're going to hear from me. 

Ring the bells that still can ring ... 

You can add up the parts 
but you won't have the sum 
You can strike up the march, 
there is no drum 
Every heart, every heart 
to love will come 
but like a refugee. 

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in. 

Ring the bells that still can ring 
Forget your perfect offering 
There is a crack, a crack in everything 
That's how the light gets in. 
That's how the light gets in. 
That's how the light gets in. 



Thanks to Eva McGovern for pointing out this song to us. 

God does not believe in Atheists

Protests in Swiss

at Tong Tong Festival




Debat ‘Religie: troost en bruikbaar medium in de kunst’


Op maandag 24 mei presenteert Kosmopolis Den Haag in het Bibit-Theater een debat over de verhouding van religie, spiritualiteit en kunst in het postkoloniale Nederland en Indonesië. Op welke manier gaan hedendaagse kunstenaars om met religie als speler in de samenleving en welke rol krijgt kunst toebedeeld in dat veranderende landschap? Behalve debat is gedurende het Tong Tong Festival de performance Birdprayers van Sara Nuytemans en de Indonesische kunstenaar Arya Pandjalu te zien.

Dat modernisering religie zou verdringen en uit ons gezichtsveld zou doen laten verdwijnen, is inmiddels achterhaald. Wereldwijd laten religies en religieuzen steeds meer van zich horen. In de leegte die het moderne bestaan achterlaat, wordt het heil ook buiten de religieuze instituties gezocht. Cursussen spiritualiteit tieren welig in Nederland en kunstenaars geven religie weer een grote rol, of leveren commentaar daarop. Van een herrijzenis lijkt geen sprake: religie en spiritualiteit zijn van oudsher inspiratiebronnen geweest voor kunst en omgekeerd gaf kunst eeuwenlang vorm aan religieuze en spirituele opvattingen. In samenwerking met Kosmopolis Den Haag is gedurende het Tong Tong Festival de performance Birdprayers van Sara Nuytemans en de Indonesische kunstenaar Arya Pandjalu te zien.


Birdprayers
Birdprayers is een reactie op de schijnbare onmogelijkheid religieuze conflicten in onze wereld op te lossen. Vier performers in neutrale kostuums, dragen elk een model van een religieus gebouw op hun hoofd: een kerk, een synagoge, een moskee of een hindoeïstische tempel. Ze lopen over het festivalterrein en positioneren zichzelf als levende monumenten voor de kijker die op hun beurt worden verward, geamuseerd en uitgedaagd. Met dit werk geven de kunstenaars commentaar op de (inter)religieuze hegemonie die gevangen zit in een nooit eindigend debat, uitmondend in een polemisch drama. Een drama dat voortkomt uit het vasthouden aan een identiteit en dus het denken beperkt. Of dat nu de erfenis is van het joods-christelijk denken als rechtvaardiging van de Nederlandse democratie of de groeiende manifestering van radicaliserende islambewegingen in het grootste moslimland ter wereld, Indonesië.




BP exhibited in KL, Singapore, Yogyakarta and Manila


CUT2010: New Photography from Southeast Asia [Parallel Universe]
curated by Eva McGovern

Participating artists: Agan Harahap, Eiffel Chong, Frankie Callaghan, Michael Shaowanasai, Mintio, Sara Nuytemans and Arya Pandjalu, Shooshie Sulaiman, Tanapol Kaewpring, Wawi Navarroza, Wimo Bayang, Zhao Renhui/The Institute of Critical Zoologists


Curator’s note on Birdprayers:
Birdprayers is an ongoing multi-site, multi-disciplinary project that combines performance, exhibitions and talks by artists Sara Nuytemans (The Netherlands) and Arya Pandjalu (Indonesia). It is a creative response to the weighty and seemingly impossible to resolve issue of religious conflict in the world. By representing four major world religions, Judaism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam the artists react and challenge competing (and at times inter) religious hegemonies locked in a never-ending debate of often bloody and polemical drama. However, although Birdprayers expresses the need for unity and peace, rather than being strictly utopian in focus, the project also highlights the difficult realities of such a goal through playful and sombre strategies. CUT2010 has selected photographic documentation of the ongoing performance strand of the project, titled All in the Mind as part of the exhibition.
Four protagonists, in neutral costumes, wear models of each of the main houses of worship on top of their heads: a church, synagogue, mosque and Hindu temple. They walk through their surroundings and or position themselves as living monuments for viewers to be confused, amused and challenged. The images in CUT2010 represent five of the performances that have taken place so far in Bali, Yogyakarta, Istanbul, Rome and The Hague, but the photographs are now dislocated from their original context as a framing device for performance documentation.  As such, the aesthetics of the images becomes a rhetorical device that is just as interesting as the thing it describes. It also contributes to the legacy of the project as both artwork and document.

The scenes are lush and compelling yet fractured with mystery and unanswered questions. The project as a whole confronts the physical and mental walls built by conservative notions surrounding the external ritualisation of mass religion and culture. The artists comment that these dividers affirm that each religion is its own world and when placed side by side, they literally represent parallel universes. Such a psychological underpinning prompts deep questions about faith and its function in contemporary society.



Curatorial Essay on the exhibition: Through the looking glass
Photography, functions as a mirror for internal thoughts and external observations. This combination of knowledge and sensory stimulation has been said to communicate the ‘essential truths’ about the subject as well as romantic qualities that makes an image a profound window to the soul. But despite its position as a mechanism for truth – we are able to validate the existence of the subject because of photography’s accuracy far more easily than its painterly predecessor – it is nevertheless, a carefully composed theatre of images. What is being presented therefore, is a parallel universe. This is at once real and imagined: a world made up of technical shadow and framed physical substance.

CUT2010 actively pursues this duality as well as the cracks in between. It aims to examine the subtleties and extremes of the medium’s capabilities as well as the rich ideological concepts behind them. Taking the subversion of reality as a starting point, twelve practitioners from Southeast Asia have been selected to participate in the exhibition. Artists from Malaysia (Shooshie Sulaiman and Eiffel Chong), Singapore (Mintio and Zhao Renhui), Thailand (Michael Shaowanasai and Tanapol Kaewpring), Philippines (Wawi Navarroza and Frankie Callaghan) and Indonesia (Wimo Bayang, Agan Harahap, Sara Nuytemans and Arya Pandjalu) contribute their personal perspectives through new and recent work. Selected for their commitment and energy to practice, they were invited to respond and play with the theme of the exhibition in order to start a dialogue with their ongoing concerns as image-makers. In return they offer viewers elaborate works that contemplate politics, religion, scientific inquiry, mysterious sub-cultures, gender and cultural identity, as well as the urban and natural environment. Such a diverse focus naturally incorporates and embraces photography’s ability for story telling. Myths and make believe as well as personal hopes and social critique all emerge in intentional and unintentional narratives throughout the exhibition.  But importantly, questions are also being presented for audiences to consider. In a contemporary world, increasingly dominated by media and cultural images, the exhibition asks: how does fine art photography in Southeast Asia interrogate the status of the medium and present an alternate stage for us to contemplate deeper issues about human existence? How can photography be critical and expressive at the same time?

The techniques of the photographic process are often taken for granted. At present, relatively sophisticated images can be created by the general public, and photographic images are everywhere. Therefore photography has become an increasingly affordable and democratised art form. This in itself is a positive thing, allowing many audiences outlets for creativity, but it also reduces photography to something that is part of mass production. PARALLEL UNIVERSE purposefully chooses aesthetically amplified images to highlight and rigorously consider the technical world of photography, in both film and digital production.

Appropriation and collage of found images from pop culture and history is a well known strategy in contemporary visual art. In photography, this method reveals that the image is not an impenetrable surface, but a fragile skin that can be subverted. Shooshie Sulaiman and Agan Harahap both seek found photography and employ processes of removal and interaction but through two very different strategies. One is physically reacting, covering and layering on to the surface to question racial/national identity whereas the other digitally reworks the very fabric of the image itself to play with the spectacle of war and super heroes.  Frankie Callaghan, surprisingly, uses only the most delicate traces of processing to create heightened stages of urban beauty challenging the eye to believe if this is a ‘naturally’ produced image whereas Wawi Navarroza purposefully seeks epic fakeness in her constructed political tableau through meticulous post production methods. The utopian dreams of religious respect and understanding by Sara Nuytemans and Arya Pandjalu unintentionally comments on photography’s role in documentation, whose boundaries continue to blur. Here the image has the possibility to transcend the performance it reproduces to stand alone as an artwork in its own right. Does the photograph therefore reduce or amplify the power of this past event? How does it transform the legacy of a performative project, which in itself is a theatre of dreams?

Conceptually each photographer contributes carefully constructed perspectives that are often rooted in their cultural contexts. However, these in turn become departure points for universal human issues. Mintio’s concentrated faces of young Singaporean online gamers in front of their computer screens discuss a semi-sacred meeting place for psychological and virtual worlds. Here, any scenario is possible. This intense, global youth culture rejects the physical, for its own unique codes of conduct and rituals. Eiffel Chong presents another mysterious sub-culture based on obsession and fetish. Selecting the Japanese manga doll as his subject Chong monumentalises these small figurines to reveal the desires and beliefs projected onto them by their owners and participants as part of the fan(atic) culture that revolves around Japanese anime and comics. Zhao Renhui, as a photographer is cloaked in secrecy, as is his affiliation with the Institute of Critical Zoologists. Documenting mysterious expeditions and scientific research, all is not what it seems in images that analyse cultural ideals about nature through wildlife photography. The landscape feels both exotic and familiar at the same time. What do we choose to believe and reject?

Finally personal and public identity remains an important subject in Southeast Asian visual practice. The collision of the local and the global, of the past and the present creates many complex questions for artists to address. However, rather than be didactic, practitioners have embraced open ended and diverse strategies. This approach, which is often playful, illustrates that identity is a constantly fluctuating concept. Wimo Bayang parodies a well-known phrase about the Dutch during the colonial era in Indonesia. The images are not a warning but a humorous act of self-reclamation and independence from ties to past.Michael Shaowanasai, analyses the position of women in society. By placing himself as the central character in his work, he contributes his admiration and observations on the complexities of female identity more than just aspects of transvestite culture in Thailand.Tanapol Kaewpring, chooses the landscape as a more abstracted signifier for personal memory. Here the artist presents natural settings with a curious glass cube that traps untouchable elements like fire and smoke, a chamber of thoughts in environments of personal relevance.

Together this body of work forms its own parallel universe of images and concepts in the gallery. But what is a parallel universe? It is an imagined place or dreamscape based on an alternate notion of time and space, filled with memorable characters and elaborate scenes and narratives. This construct destabilises audiences who are attracted by haunting and beautiful signs that portray direct and subtle parables about the real world. By selecting the uncanny, or rather, what is familiar and foreign at the same time, the exhibition curatorially endeavours to create a necessary pause on photography as a medium, to discuss exactly what this window to the soul could be. Such theatrically tries to expand our imagination and curiosity, because like Alice, we all wonder at times what the world would be like if we step through the looking glass.

I would like to thank all the artists involved in this exhibition for their time, generosity of knowledge and commitment to the project.

About the Curator
Eva McGovern is an independent curator and writer based in Kuala Lumpur. Prior to living in South East Asia, she worked at the Serpentine Gallery, a public contemporary art institution in London on public programmes, exhibitions and publications. In 2009, she curated the group show Unconscious: Self: Conscious_Portraiture in 21st Century Malaysia, at 67 Tempinis Satu Gallery, Kuala Lumpur and works by Indonesian and Malaysian artists as part of the group show Some Rooms, Osage Gallery, Hong Kong. She also wrote and edited the catalogue Bank Negara Malaysia Art Collection: Selected Works. Eva has guest lectured at the Sotheby’s Institute, Singapore and has contributed to international journals on Southeast Asian Contemporary Art and is Managing Editor for www.arterimalaysia.com.

Project In Focus


by Eva McGovern, pubished on http://www.arterimalaysia.com


Birdprayers is an ongoing multi site, multidisciplinary project that combines performance, exhibitions and talks by artists Sara Nuytemans (The Netherlands) and Arya Pandjalu (Indonesia). It is a creative response to the weighty and seemingly impossible to resolve issue of religious conflict in the world. By representing four major world religions, Judaism, Catholicism, Hinduism and Islam the artists react and challenge competing (and at times inter) religious hegemonies locked in a never ending debate of often bloody and polemical drama. However, although Birdprayers expresses the need for unity and peace, rather than being strictly utopian in focus, the project also highlights the difficult realities of such a goal through playful and sombre strategies.

All in the Mind is the title of the (main) performance strand of the project. Four protagonists, in neutral costumes, wear models of each of the main houses of worship on top of their heads: a church, synagogue, mosque and Hindu temple. They walk through their surroundings and or position themselves as a living monuments for passerby’s to be confused, amused and challenged. The performances, of which there have been 5 to date have taken place in the rice fields of Bali, a bird market in Jogyakarta, a pond near the parliament buildings in The Hague, the New Mosque in Istanbul as well as in front of the Colleseum in Rome. Specifically chosen for their visual and symbolic impact Birdprayersutilises these striking backdrops to heighten  the power of performance as a mode of communication. As such, the project confronts the physical and psychological walls built by conservative notions surrounding the external ritualisation of mass religion and culture rather then more personal spiritual responses to these faiths.

Each model is covered with relevant materials to the location, seeds suspended in resin on wood for Bali, printed zinc (for making tin cans) in Yogyakarta, traditional Turkish fabric for Istanbul, slices of bread for the Hague (for the birds on the pond to eat) and tourist maps in Rome. However, there is no recognisable religious symbolism. This is a deliberate strategy to resist the immediate and strong connotations such symbols as the Star of David, the Cross, Om and the Star and Crescent of Islam provoke in the minds of the viewers. Rather then quote religious iconography Nuytemans and Pandjalu prefer to use site specificity through the surfaces of their models to address issues of cultural identity through religion.
Cultural identity is learnt from childhood. This process conditions the mind on what is familiar, natural to become a perceived ‘truth’ versus what is foreign, unfamiliar and therefore not to be trusted or believed so easily. Nuytemans comments that “As Neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to change its structure and function in response to experience) is one of the most important and developing topics in Neuroscience today, it becomes more and more clear that humans always explore the surroundings with the reference of his own mind-set. We all have a culturally modified brain. Cultural differences are so persistent because when our native culture is learned, it becomes “second nature”. The tastes of our culture all seem “natural” to us. In general, humans find familiar types of stimulation pleasurable: they seek out like-minded individuals to associate with, and they tend to ignore or forget, or attempt to discredit, information that does not match their beliefs, or perception of the world, because it is very distressing and difficult to think and perceive in unfamiliar ways.” As such the collaboration between Nuytmans and Pandjalu, two artists from very different cultural backgrounds, is a method of cross cultural pollination through sharing and learning as well as as combination of knowledge to address issues surrounding religion, as two citizens of the global world.

The performance is not an overt political protest but a call for unity, a diplomatic attempt at tolerance and is an ongoing project that will be performed in sites around the world with accompanying talks and exhibitions. However this is not to say that is does not engage with politics. It would be impossible not to link the two that have historically walked hand in hand for generations. The sequence performed by a river in the Hague is played in reverse, alluding to the work of extreme right wing minister Geert Wilders whose anti-Muslim rhetoric seems to be polarising the Netherlands into potentially pro and anti Islamic battle grounds. Even the birds, were not tempted to try to eat the models made out of bread. However rather than taking an overt and didactic stance Birdprayers seeks to provoke questioning and hopes to champion possibilities whilst highlighting the current landscape of political, cultura and religious tensions.

Although presented as a group, the division and silence between each of the performers is palpable. All the three monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity and Judaism) stem from the same Abrahamic beginnings and all these religions share similar views on morality yet their isolation from one another has been the foundation of wars and conflicts. The symbolic walls of these houses of worship have the possibility to trap the mind, like a bird cage, whereas the bird, itself so prevalent in religion, in this instance is a marker of freedom and transcendence from the earthly world to a higher and more personal spiritual plane.
Will we ever live in a world devoid of conflict and misunderstanding, of inter faith harmony and tolerance? It seems unlikely given human nature. How will these grand narratives ever be achieved? Birdprayers doesn’t provide those answers, but presents a striking visual engagement with these issues in the hope to open up dialogue to reveal the walls that separate and divide us.


Bericht in de Volkskrant

Het project 'Birdprayers' van Sara Nuytemans, waarvan een eerdere versie vorig jaar in Volkskrant Oog te zien was, blijft in ontwikkeling.

De performance is in december uitgevoerd in Den Haag en in januari in Rome.
Een paar foto's en links naar meer informatie zijn te zien op www.birdprayers.net

Nuytemans is momenteel weer in Indonesië, waar zij ondermeer mee zal doen aan de Jakarta Biennial.

Wordt vervolgd....

Islamic prayer and procession at the Colosseum

La repubblica, January 28, 2009

Birdprayers #5, Rome , Italy



See video: http://www.youtube.com/ssarasari#p/u/0/D7kSQY88nzU

Detail: Tourist maps of Rome

Birdprayers #4, The Hague, The Netherlands

Birdprayers #4, The Hague, The Netherlands





















See video: http://www.youtube.com/ssarasari#p/u/1/K9miZfKqg2Y

Detail: Models are made of slices of brown bread

Birdhouses guide

http://www.birdhouseguide.org

Neo Nation, Biennale Jogja IX

Biennale Jogja IX

28 December 2007 - 28 January 2008

164 artists with various media and strategies

Curators:
Sujud Dartanto
Kuss Indarto
Eko Prawoto
Suwarno Wisestrotomo

Venues:
Jogja National Museum
Taman Budaya Yogyakarta
Sangkring Art Space
Biennale Jogja
Taman Budaya Yogyakarta
Jalan Sriwedani no.1
Yogyakarta
Indonesia 
Review: http://universes-in-universe.org
Quote out of review: "In a video performance "Birdprayer", Arya Panjalu and Sara Nuytemans show four performers whose heads uphold miniatures of four different religious temples that are recognized by the state. They walked around a bird market and went to the greenery and pasture of the rice paddies. The sensitive issue of the freedom to practice one's religion is addressed in the work in a subtle approach. It points out the individual spiritual freedom behind the confine of religious institutions that tend to monopolize our understanding of faith."