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'The Book of Questions': Lala Bohang’s successful ice-breaker

Asmara Wreksono
Asmara Wreksono

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Tue, April 24, 2018  /  09:31 am
'The Book of Questions': Lala Bohang’s successful ice-breaker

Artist/author, Lala Bohang at her book preview event on April 21 at 2Madison eatery, Jakarta. (JP/Asmara Wreksono)

Artist/author, Lala Bohang, invited The Jakarta Post to an intimate book preview event entitled “Playdate with Lala Bohang” on April 21 at 2Madison Eatery, Kemang, South Jakarta.

When all invitees had settled in at a long-table arrangement, Lala introduced The Book of Questions, her not-so-recent creation, which was first part of her installation artwork at the National Gallery back in 2014.

“’The Book of Questions’ was a part of my art installation in 2014. I brought it to the Makassar International Writers Festival and played with the event’s attendees with Aan Mansyur as moderator. The responses were great,” she said.

The rule of the game is simple: when somebody gives you the book, you have to concentrate and focus, then open a page at random, read the question on that page out loud and give your answer. When you’re done, pass the book to whomever you want.

However, something as simple turns out to be complicated for some participants. While some are lighthearted, several participants answer with difficulty, some even get emotional.

Lala’s The Book of Questions is meant as an artistic response to Carol Bolt’s 1999 release, The Book of Answers. “This is my response to ‘The Book of Answers’ because as you can see, the design and approach of this book is intendedly similar to Carol Bolt’s creation,” Lala said.

“I did this because when you seek an answer in a book, you tend to stop when you get an answer from one of the pages. With ‘The Book of Questions’, there is a continuation after the questions are answered,” she added.

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Containing 500 questions ranging from the general, like “What does the color black mean to you?” up to the most intimate such as, “How often do you have sex?” the book may serve as an ideal ice breaker for a new crowd at a dinner party. However, it is also suitable to be “played” with close friends you’ve known for decades as it may reveal things you have never heard before from the people you think you know.

“This book is a perfect tool for us to learn how to listen. It is also good to revisit our inner being and in the end, it will make you see a person differently,” said Lala.

Gramedia Pustaka Utama (GPU) editor, Siska Yuanita said, “This is Lala’s appreciation, a homage to ‘The Book of Answers’. It is quite common in the art and literature world to respond to other people’s work.”

“’The Book of Questions’ is a part of Lala’s artistic expression. She expresses herself through her drawings, her words, so this is a form of artistic outlet for her,” she added.

Regarding Lala's bilingual book and previous work, which are written in English and GPU’s openness in recent years to Indonesian authors who write in English, Siska said it was to accommodate Indonesian writers who are unable to voice their thoughts in Indonesian.

“There are Indonesian writers who are not very articulate in expressing themselves in Indonesian. They are more fluent in expressing themselves in English. We’ve tried publishing several writers and it has worked,” she said.

“The question I get a few times is whether the book they write will make it into the Indonesian literature category. Yes, Indonesian literature can be written in English by an Indonesian,” she added.

The Book of Questions will be available at bookstores starting April 30.