The questioning stones of Wimo Bayang
Food for thought: A visitor inspects one of Wimo Bayang’s stones at the “You See Half You Get Half” exhibit at the Ark Galerie in Jakarta. JP/Natasha GanEntering an art gallery only to walk into a cluster of large rocks and photographs of engraved stones instead of elaborate paintings, visitors might find themselves puzzled.
That is probably what photographer Wimo Ambala Bayang wants.
What Wimo is doing in his exhibit, currently at the Ark Galerie in Jakarta, is to revisit what art really is through an installation of stones. Wimo wants to see whether people can see stone — not painted or sculpted in any way — as objects of art when placed in a certain social context.
“It’s actually not about the stones,” said curator Alia Swastika. “They are just metaphors.”
Wimo invites the audience to question their own definitions and values of art. To him, stones are objects with a strong visual image just as capable as any other art mediums when delivering a message. Indeed, Wimo noticed massive stones around Mount Merapi in Yogyakarta, where he currently resides, inspiring him to commence the project.
At the Ark Galerie on Jl. Senopati Raya, Wimo’s solo exhibition titled “You See Half You Get Half” is about seeing art in its entirety. Art won’t meet you half way if you settle for half the meaning and, as a consequence, you fall short of comprehending the message.
This explains the Braille letter codes on some of the stones, where people have to literally decipher the message on the stones. Likewise, art in general should be seen — or rather decoded — in the same manner.
Together with the Braille codes, Wimo also engraves words on the stones (which, by the way, are not actually stones but realistic imitations made from resin) for a stronger visual image to leave a vivid imprint on people’s minds.
Ironically, Wimo thought of engraving the stones in his pursuit to see them as blank canvases. He ended up choosing 12 words that are far from neutral, some being “tacky”, “worthy”, “original”, “holy”, and “artificial” to redefine the line between real objects (the stones) and perception (the descriptive words).
Aside from the cluster of stones on the floor of the small art gallery, Wimo uses different multimedia to convey his message. A stone engraved with “necessity” was featured in a looping video showing a girl trying to swim in the middle of the ocean with nothing but the stone to keep her afloat. “This gets us questioning ‘necessity’,” said Alia. “When we’re in the middle of the ocean, what do we think of grabbing for support?”
Another interesting piece features two stones hung on the wall, with peepholes drilled into each of them. People have to bend down and peek into the stones to see footage from Martin Scorsese’s 1998 movie The Last Temptation of Christ. The clip shows Jesus Christ being stoned before his crucifixion.
Meanwhile, the photographs of stones adorning the white walls were somewhat witty and odd. One dominating picture shows a naked girl in her bed hugging a huge stone to cover her body. The stone was engraved with the word “Worthy”. Just as peculiar is the picture beside it.
Titled Original & His Sons, the photograph captures three floating stones around a white table, a scene similar to that of a family lunch. The three stones are named “Original”, “Copy” and “Fake”. Judging from the title, it suggests that originality will eventually end with the artificiality of duplication.
Due to the artist’s unusual sense of humor, these photographs leave some sort of discomfort contrary to the usual overwhelming emotion and vibrancy art lovers seek in paintings.
As modern as it may sound, Wimo’s take on the semiotic relation between language and visual representation is not unfamiliar to the arts. This process of involving comprehensive textual details with visual installations dominated contemporary arts in the 1960s and 1970s.
Wimo himself has used the same technique of metaphorical art in his previous works. In his project titled Sleeping Elephant in the Axis of Jogja, he used an elephant to symbolize power. But for this piece, stones are the mediums that have people stepping out of the gallery with questions.
“You See Half You Get Half”
Jl. Senopati Raya 92
Until June 18