Friday, March 19, 2010

FX Harsono: Testimonies

So I missed Kam Ning's performance at Yong Siew Toh yesterday. I was mistaken by the newspaper which mentioned that it was free, but did not say that one must register for the tickets. I was predisposed to think that it would be first-come-first-served sitting, and it wasn't until I checked in at YST's event calendar that I realised that it was not.

I was quite pissed about that.

But moving on, I decided to go to the Art Museum to see the latest art installation. We had intended to go last month, just after they moved the "Thrice Upon a Time" series that I ogled twice (but had not uploaded the photos), but since we went on a Sunday, it was S$15.

Being a tight pussy, I refused to pay S$10 when I know that the Art Museum is free on Friday evenings. So we went today, and saw extremely emotional yet disturbing installations by FX Harsono, ala 胡丰文, capturing the upheavals and changes in Indonesian society, especially the violence towards the Chinese people.

Turning right upon entering the gallery, I was fascinated by the sight of delicate butterflies pinned to dinnerware at a table setting. The piece was entitled "Bon Apetit". Harsono likes to include butterflies in his art pieces as symbols of vulnerability and beauty, doomed to be attacked by violence. "Bon Apetit" hinted at unrest moving into a home setting.

Walking further into the gallery, I was quite freaked out by the other displays. The video where Harsono visited sites where Chinese Indonesians were murdered back in 1948-1949, and interviewed family members and relatives left bereft by their sudden loss and extreme fear, was especially scary. Suddenly I understood the pieces I encountered earlier, the one with the wedding couple and the skulls in the same picture with red words sewn across. Even the installation where Harsono writes his mandarin name with brush and pen lines them in a black room, as if he was silently protesting the loss of his Chinese heritage due to Suharto's New Order.

Seriously, if not for that video, I would not have realised the true poignancy and destruction wrought by Suharto's government towards the Chinese, which later influenced the pogroms against the Chinese in 1998 when his government fell. It was very disturbing and ugly.

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