Missile: CONTACT

Grisha Dolgopolov

CONTACT Unstable Fields of Power is a brilliant piece of cross-cultural melange. Four artists from Bandung (Indonesia) and four from Perth collaborated on a project that is both an experimental artists’ exchange, conducted online, and an exhibition of new media works. Rick Vermey sets the tone and scares luddite internet users with laptop meltdown as his screen interface goes crazy.

The Indonesian artists are really strong on image, composition and colour in more traditional works adapted for exhibition on the web. Their artworks are bulging with meaning and narrative and are replete with theatrical grotesquerie that is finding explicitly modern forms. Rikrik Kusmara presents four compelling wooden sculptural installations that have a forceful sense of space and colour. Diyato’s dramatic works are visually amazing—although they could make better viewing in the canvas. The web hosts these artists’ usual projects and biogs, but where are their online works?

Now if you are not a net-fool like me you will get through to the online works straight away rather than thinking that the Indonesians were given a raw deal. When you do, you will find that there are some intriguing experimentations that betray a wicked sense of humour. Diyato’s little film is an allegoric transformation by fire. While W. Christiawan gets right into funny animal noises, his “postcards from the edge” and “throwing hopes” are intense evocations of how contemporary Indonesian political life pervades the everyday. These are strong, simple applications of the web to represent personal experiences.

Krisna Murti appropriates and responds to the new social stimuli in a more engaged way. She says that “in the last one decade, Indonesian TV’s commercial advertisements have radically pushed a social change, breaking the ethic value.” The lack of warning and the pervasiveness of tampons ads on Indonesia TV prompted Murti to respond with a provocative anti-ad where she re-interprets a tampon commercial in order to show how the tampon can be used for other domestic applications. She also presents an interactive with useful instructions for transforming the tampon into a teabag or a cold compress for use by men to cool their brains.

In fact there was a fair bit of humour in this exhibition, particularly from the female artists. This seems to be something of a prevailing trend in Perth. Amanda Alderson presents a remarkably accurate anthropological study in game format of going out on a Saturday night south of the river in Perth with the scuzzy males that inhabit the region. This interactive and the associated artwork spill out of the ubiquitous and terrifying symbols of suburbia—the big green rubbish bins.

The adventure starts from the invite on the mobile on Saturday afternoon and goes through all the painful rites of choice from brand of bloke to drinks, pick-up lines, cars, clothes, choice phrases and puke places that can be had on the night. At every point there is a choice but the range of choices is hilariously dispiriting. The selection of guys to go out with is big but believe me, after this night, you will never go out with that type again. It is a cringingly correct representation of the Saturday night party scene with superb sound bytes to accompany the decisions that you make. They capture all the proudly nasal mono-syllabic beauty of the Aussie bloke. I went through the ordeal a couple of times to try my luck with different guys. This is potently precise contemporary anthropology (she must be an insider) sprinkled with colourful linguistic and cultural particularities of Perthlings. It’s a classic! I was wondering what the Indonesians made of this piece.

The exhibition is a powerful venture into new territory. It would have been good to see even more cross-cultural experimentation along the lines of Christiawan and Kathy Barber’s collaboration. We can only hope that this program continues and develops in the future. Exciting stuff.

CONTACT Unstable Fields of Power: www.curtin.edu.au/curtin/dept/art/ITBX/ – expired; Krisna Murti, Rikrik Kusmara and W. Christiawan of Bandung, Indonesia and Kathy Barber, Matthew Hunt, Amanda Alderson, Rick Vermey of Perth.

RealTime issue #34 Dec-Jan 1999 pg.

© Grisha Dolgopolov; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 December 1999