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Artist highlights human, animal relationship in art performance

Ni Nyoman Wira
Ni Nyoman Wira

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Tue, September 12, 2017 | 11:36 am
Artist highlights human, animal relationship in art performance

'Dogwalk' by Yogyakarta-based artist Mella Jaarsma at the 2nd edition of 'First Sight' program at MACAN in West Jakarta on Sep. 9, 2017. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

Twelve people with blank stares walked among the crowd; each was on a red leash and wore costumes made of cowhide, lambskin and goatskin the animals’ hooves were still attached to the costumes. For one and a half hours, they wandered in different directions at a steady pace; sometimes attaching their leashes to one another.

The scene above is part of Dogwalk, an art performance created by Yogyakarta-based artist Mella Jaarsma during the 2nd edition of First Sight, one of the programs presented by the Museum of Modern And Contemporary Art in Nusantara (MACAN) in West Jakarta, held on Saturday.

Jaarsma, who was born in the Netherlands, seeks to look at the relationship between humans and animals in a satirical interpretation of a fashion catwalk. “The idea is about human perception of animals – where one needs another – but we also have control over them. [We decide] which animals are killed and which are considered holy and protected,” Jaarsma said. “It’s always the human who makes the rules, which hypocritical.”

The art performance was previously shown at the 20th Sydney Biennale in 2016. Some of the costumes were made by Jaarsma herself with materials from qurban (day of sacrifice) animals for Idul Adha a few years prior. Additionally, she also made a video in Yogyakarta that contains a similar scene with the performance.

'Variation & Improvization for 'In Harmonia Progressio''' by Indonesian artist Duto Hardono.'Variation & Improvization for 'In Harmonia Progressio''' by Indonesian artist Duto Hardono. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

The artist is set to introduce a new project at the Europalia Arts Festival in Brussels, Belgium, in October. “The inspiration comes from clothing that is made of tree bark, which Indonesians used to wear in the past,” said Jaarsma, adding that the project would be presented as both an art performance and installation titled I Owe You.

Aside from Jaarsma, there were five other artists who showcased their works at the First Sight program: Duto Hardono's Variation & Improvisation for ‘In Harmonia Progressio’; China-based artist Xu Zhen with his work titled In the Blink of an Eye; Arahmaiani's Handle without Care; Australia-based artist Justin Shoulder featuring Carrion: Episode 1 and Heman Chong from Singapore with his work titled A Short Story, Somewhere, Out There.

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Indonesian artist Arahmaiani performs 'Handle without Care.'Indonesian artist Arahmaiani performs 'Handle without Care.' (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

MACAN director Aaron Seeto said First Sight served as a sneak peek into the museum’s grand opening event slated for Nov. 4. The first edition was previously held in August.

“We want to present the museum's full potential [to the audiences in Jakarta],” Seeto said on the reason why he chose art performances for First Sight. “Something [the public] may not have already seen or understood; something that's perhaps new to them and offers a different way to engage with the museum.”

The art performance of 'In the Blink of an Eye' by China-based artist Xu Zhen.The art performance of 'In the Blink of an Eye' by China-based artist Xu Zhen. (JP/Ni Nyoman Wira)

Seeto said up to 1,800 visitors had booked their spots to attend the 2nd edition of First Sight. “Indonesians in general are curious people. We want this curiosity to continue to grow by creating these pre-shows.”

The museum's upcoming grand opening in early November is said to feature at least 90 works by over 70 different artists from across Asia, Europe and America.

“[The artworks] will range from modern to contemporary periods,” he said. “During the grand opening, I think people will be very surprised to learn they could find certain works here in Indonesia.” (kes)

Editor's note: Paragraph 10 in this article has been corrected.

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