Visitors attending the opening of Tintin Wulia’s solo exhibition at Ark Gallery tonight are likely to be shocked when asked to partake in what may seem as an act of pure vandalism.
An unfinished version of an installation by Tintin Wulia.: JP/Carla Bianpoen
But to do so, they have to pay first: a colored grid a la Mondriaan will be projected on the wall, with one of its colored squares awarded to the highest bidder at the auction led by well-known auctioneer Amir Sidharta.
After the auction, only one visitor will be allowed to “attack” the wall — which involves making a hole in the selected square. By the eighth projected grid, the wall will be totally ruined, but probably still standing. The process will be recorded on three cameras — hung in three different sections of the ceiling — that will be taking pictures from different angles and time ranges, thus producing art of a different kind.
This is Tintin Wulia’s way of visualizing what is happening in our world, where efforts to break down freedom-hampering “walls” exist, but are still too few. The work is titled Constructing Holes, it is part of the exhibition “De-Constructing Walls”.
This is the most forceful of Tintin’s exploration of identity, mobility and boundary issues, where she has moved away from her usual subtle aesthetic and delicate though pungent critique.
However the basic remains the same, perhaps a bit tamer as her explorations show the multiple realities in life. Tintin has always dreamed of a world where one could fly without constraints, the way Peter Pan could.
As a teenager, she wished Peter Pan would lose his shadow in her neighborhood, and find her if she could fly, which she thought would be possible if she had happy thoughts. But of course she discovered humans like us can only fly with a passport and a valid visa, which she thought is really “shit*y”.
Her installation titled (Re)collection of Togetherness at the Jakarta Biennale was staggering, as was her work of kites made of her family’s personal documents tied to razor blades.
While such works germinated from her personal experience as a Chinese Indonesian, the issue of mobility has become global with people increasingly moving around the world, bringing up issues of borders, nationality, identity and “belonging”.
Her research becomes more playful, as her works become increasingly interactive, while she “maps” a world in progress.
Recently she asked a group of customers (almost all expats) — having dinner at Potato Head restaurant — how they had moved from one country to another and where they would like to move to if they could chose.
Using peanuts, chilli and other spices, as well as flowers, the group of about 90 people indicated the places they had moved to, or would like to move to, thus “creating” a new world population map.
On this map, one could clearly see more and more people moving towards Asia compared to Europe or America, and less toward Brazil.
Earlier Tintin had performed the same stunt in Patna, India, with flowers, but unlike her work with spices in Jakarta, she created a map made of flowers beforehand, calling the performance and the video Nous ne notons pas les fleurs (We do not record flowers).
Afterwards, she asked her audience to mark their travels from one state to another. The work was originally presented as an installation and interactive performance at Soil Bite, Khoj International Workshop 2009 in Patna, India, before she turned it into a video triptych with the same title.
The work, she says, was informed by the local context — Bihar, the state of which Patna is the capital, has the highest rate of emigration in India, and is part of the eastern region ridden with border problems.
Tintin borrowed the title from an excerpt of Saint Exupéry’s little book Le Petit Prince, where a geographer tells the Little Prince that geographers do not record flowers when they draw maps because, unlike the earth, flowers are ephemeral. Tintin said she used flowers precisely because they were ephemeral.
While the actions and interactions in Tintin’s works are interesting, videos made of these are even more fascinating. Through her videos, Tintin Wulia, a trained musician, architect and film composer pursuing her PhD in visual art at RMIT university in Australia, portrays the exciting ways new media can be art showing at once different perspectives and layers of reality — something inconceivable in the past.
During the last decade, Tintin has exhibited her works internationally in private and public institutions such as Osage Gallery, Van Abbemuseum, London’s Institute of Contemporary Art, the Istanbul Biennale and Yokohama Triennale.
As I visited Ark Gallery on Sunday, Tintin was preparing her exhibition with curator Alia Swastika. I cannot wait to see the videos of Construction of the Holes.
‘Deconstruction of a wall’
Solo exhibition by Tintin Wulia
Jl. Senopati 92 Jakarta