Rabu, Januari 29, 2014

Facemates: How Relationship Modify Identity

I got another chance to write a short essay for an exhibition of a newcomer artist. I'm trying to practice writing in English nowadays, yet it still felt suck. The exhibition already been opened at January 24th, at MFA Gallery, Kemang, Jakarta. 

“Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies” –Aristotle-

Adaptability is one of human beings’ primal traits. We adapt accordingly to the condition of our surroundings: to answer the challenges of the environment and to merely survive and preserve our wellbeing. In the end we develop physiological adjustment and alteration so we can became a creature the way we are today: superior, with keen perception and cognition, superseding other species and organisms. Of course these assumptions are the general notion of human condition known as adaptation and evolution, in which we made a gradual physical advancement due to the abundant threats from our surroundings. But then one question rise: if we should answered to the stimulus induced with threat, how should human respond to the incitement with no promise of danger at all?

The precipitous question arises after observing the oeuvre of Christina Phan. Her ardent observation about how couples/soul mates could have a physical resemblance to one and other pop ups the idea of physical alteration of an individual after he/she interrelates intensively with other individuals. The above epigraph: “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies,could be an accurate passage to illustrate the idea. Friendships are among the most familiar kind of human relationships.We might find it even in another variety of human connection; in motherhood, romantic bonds, siblinghood, etc. When the bond of friendships is interwoven between two people,they would somewhat act fittingly to one and another and end up sharing the same habit and preferences.

In this exhibition, Christina seems enthralled by the myth of physical resemblance amongst many couple(or in her own term labeled as soul mates) she encountered. This fact had long become a common lore embraced by many people in many culture. Many Indonesian even believed that couples were all supposed to be look alike, and they tend to use this assumption as a method to find mates.Barring the idea and myth of people with physical semblance should be couple, if we refer to a few scientific notion, human is indeed adapting physically due to a certain reasons. It is said that human beings develop four primary types of adaptation: genetic, physiological, cultural, and psychological adaptation. With this notion, we can relate that the physical semblance happening between two unrelated adults could be the result of cultural and psychological adaptation.

There’s a famous adage: “monkey see monkey do.” This basic principle of mimicry happens not only among simple animal, but also amongst people. When we spend some times with a certain person, subconsciously we collect the information about the said person’s custom and habit at the back of our mind. The memories of how they move and act will somehow emerged and become part of our habit. Gradually it will changes of our preferences of clothing, our taste on hair cut, and many little details concerning our daily life. This of course would consequence to how we present our own self in reality.

Furthermore according to some research, it appears that we tend to choose mate based on the physical likeness. Though it seems like a strange idea, but there are connection between appearance and personality. The more someone resemble the other, the more likely they are to have a similar personality, thus the more likely for them to be a compatible couple. There’s even a biological reason behind this phenomenon. A study claimed that partners who are genetically similar to each other tend to have a happier marriage. When couple with a strong basis of relationship bond in marriage it is guaranteed that they will influenced each other. That is why couple who married for a long period of time are mostly have a physical resemblance from one and another.

Apart from the basic concept derived from the assumption of physical semblance between mates and couples, should we scrutinize Christina’s artworks, we may find that there are more interwoven element in her oeuvre. Her decision in using photography as a medium to conveys idea has it’s own significant effect. 
Should we categorize her inclination on producing an art piece, then Christina’s art seems to be classify into the trajectory of portraiture. Upon further inspection to the praxis of contemporary photography, we may find that there are an abundant route’s variation of this genre. Because contrary to the general assumption, a portrait could give a limitless possibility of ideas and interpretation. As Charles Baudelaire once said: “A Portrait! What could be more simple and more complex, more obvious and more profound?”[i]

It has been generally accepted that photography could not present a truthful data anymore. One can fabricate an image easily by using a graphic software nowadays, and this practice has change the feature of photography. As a medium, photography has become more and more malleable, just like a painter strokes her brush stylistically on to the canvas, so does a photographer could further edit and fabricate the image as she desired. Christina had also modify her image’s snapshot in order to build an effective language to present her ideas. Furthermore, William E. Ewing, the author of “Face: The New Photographic Portrait”, had use the term “transplant” to describe photography’s tendency in “making” and “faking” images. This has become a new function of today photography: that is to serve artists’ needs on presenting new realities, making a desirable narration, to fabricates fiction, etc. The so-called logic of “transplant” can also be obtained in Christina’s artworks.

Of course outside of the “image world” we are all familiar with the domain of face transplant. This alone has bring us into a brave new world full of transformative excitement. Everyday people encounters thousands of possibilities to transform themselves into new person, new identity. In her own art conception, Christina bring about the idea of transformative identity between people when they are interacting with their own spouse or partner. Visually Christina’s “transplant’s” trajectory combine images of two different person to become an image with new identity. In this case, Christina’s transformation could operate when she ascribe her own thesis about the physical semblance between couples.

Observing the exhibition of “Exposition: One”, the audience may relate to Christina’s oeuvre quite easily, because the premise itself is a very familiar conception amongst us. The idea of soul mates itself is a very recognizable notion. We can find it, from the traditional script of Torah and Kaballah to the product of popular culture such as movies and novels. Aside from the familiarity of Christina’s idea, this exhibition could also operate as a critical tools for us to examine how the image producing in contemporary world could behave as a generator for new identities and meanings.

D. Tresnadewi Nf.

[i] Ewing, William A., Face: The New Photographic Portrait, London: Thames and Hudson, 2006, Page 21

Jumat, Januari 24, 2014

Incoma Asylum

So a friend asked me a few months a go, to write her a short essay for a solo exhibition of a newcomer artist. Naturally I accepted the offer, although of course the preparation was a bit in a hurry (only two days of writing process, I think). Well, no matter, here is the essay for the exhibition:

Incoma Asylum: Psychedelic Art of Safrie Effendi

Consciousness has been a prevalent topic to mankind for many centuries. But what is the state of being conscious really about? If we were to simplify the meaning of the human mind, we will find that our consciousness was really just a set of opinions or feeling which is believed together as the reality. The sensation of a color, the burnt of a sun, the coolness of a water; it is all agreed upon in a convention. Sure we might debate from times to times about how a color may seems more reddish rather than purplish, but if we were to bring the issue of an awareness of our surrounding, then there will always be an exact value we agreed upon as the same level of consciousness.

Psychoanalysis compared our mind to an iceberg. It is said that our consciousness was just a tip of a giant iceberg, in which the bigger chunk of our psyche was actually submerged inside the realm we are not really aware of. The bigger part of our mind, the subconscious, would sometimes emerged in a form of dreams, or sometimes in a rare cases, people experience mental phenomenon, known as astral projection, near death experience, phosphene, etc. But because we are very customary of receiving the information from our conscious mind, we seldom put so much thought into things we experienced through subconscious mind. Surely there are a lot of people who believed that dream is somehow has a prophesy attribute, or that the phenomenon relating to the subconscious mind were somehow linked to a spiritual realm, but not many aware of the cognitive potential of the subconscious for their waking life.

Safrie Effendi was perhaps one of those exceptional who could generate the potential of the subconscious into a creative feat. While suffering from a dengue fever, he somehow managed to collect random images of his subconscious into a form of a painting works. Safrie said that while he was enduring the fever, he feels like he was teetering in a brink of death. He even thought that he would never experience his forthcoming solo exhibition. This edgy sensation he felt were perhaps a result of his previous excitement when offered to do a solo exhibition, combined with a very unexpected incident, where he got ill from the dengue fever.

Being over-sensitive, Safrie must stay in the hospital for a whole week. It was during this time, Safrie encounter many strange and random images in his mind. Surely every one of us has at least experience a state in which our consciousness were being transitioned from being asleep into being awaken. At these state, known as a hypnagogic state, we would occasionally undergo a variety of sensory experiences. There is a certain mental syndrome, following a hypnagogic state, which inspire people into believing themselves were inside of a spiritual occurrence, or was in touch with a higher level of reality, some even believe that they were experiencing a near death phenomena. This hypnagogic state has also triggered Safrie’s mind to encounter many appealing images and forms, precisely when he was rendered powerless by his fever.

Safrie’s background as a DJ might be attributable to his splendor imagination. His routine with rhythm and musical beat, could give him a sense of cadence and regularity, which will dominates his imagery as he grow drowsy. When fighting with his fever, Safrie was trapped between the conscious and unconscious, that was probably when his mind harbor into his musical fondness. Even though many people also experience a hypnagogic state such as these—some even claim to have experience a more complex symptoms like phospene—but not many of us could engender a creative outcome from our subconscious mind.

For his inclination to work with the subconscious imagery, Safrie’s artworks, holds a different aura compare with a conventional-representational painting. While most painters control the subject matter of their artwork by bringing imagery of their conscious mind into their canvas, Safrie brings “unintelligible” images into his canvas. As unintelligible as they were, these “visual memories” are somehow show us a different realm on consciousness, a new convention of form, shapes, and color. “Incoma Asylum,” quoted Safrie, when asked about the name of his workshop and studio, “ is taken from a word ‘In a coma’, as in you are in a coma. AndAsylum’ It’s a place where people with extreme mental problem are placed.  Somehow they can’t be cured; some people say it’s a prison for crazy people. But however, don’t get me wrong; most of the times; these people do imagine things beyond above normal people. It’s fascinating for me.” To take that standpoint into consideration, it was no wonder Safrie’s current oeuvre; show us much unconventional and bizarre imagery.

D. Tresnadewi Nf.