Realm of Suppression
An exhibition by Didotklasta Harimurti
Free Range Gallery
399 Wellington St Perth
July 22-26 July
Didotklasta Harimurti, an Indonesian social activist, visual artist, theatre director and writer, will hold an exhibition of his drawings at the Free Range Gallery in Perth in July.
Titled Realm of Suppression, this will be his first solo exhibition in Australia.
Didotklasta began writing about social issues in senior high school. In the early 1990s he became active as a painter and in establishing theatre groups. He eventually established a radical theatre group, the Yogyakarta Institute of Popular Theatre, which worked with poor communities.
After several years off for therapy, Didoklasta came back in 2000. He began to actively publish his writing, to paint and to facilitate several forums for marginal community empowerment and critical pedagogy theatre.
Today, Didotklasta works as a productive artist and is Director of the Institute of Media for Community Action (KALANGAN).
Green Left Weekly's Rebecca Meckelburg spoke with Didotklasta at his home in Salatiga Central Java.
What factors have influenced and shaped you and your thinking as an artist?
I was born in the very early years of the bloody Suharto dictatorship [which began in 1965]. I grew up in a regime that stifled and suppressed people’s ability to think and express their ideas and aspirations.
I grew up in an era of Indonesian economic and social development that ultimately served the elite few and abandoned the common people.
I entered university and became familiar with the radical anti-dictatorship movement in 1989. I became active as an artist-activist in a range of media from painting to theatre to writing.
From the middle to the end of the 1990s, I had a mental health breakdown that I assume was about my difficulties to deal with my reality both in an individual/private and a social context.
I don’t know where it came from, but since I was very young I had a strong sense and sympathy about others, especially the poor. This sense grew and become a desire to understand, to help and to be in social solidarity.
In some way ― some cases I tend to put myself there, as a part of they who are marginal. Also in some aspects, I am marginal.
This life path has developed my character, it drives my acts as an activist as well as my creativity as an artist.
How do you think about and how do you practise your art?
Because my aesthetic and artistic desire develops and grows along with my critical thought, I have always thought of and used art to express things about what it means to be human in my society. For me, the human in my artworks means humanity's problems.
I have been involved in many kinds of art practice, each of which have a different purpose for me personally. But the thoughts or ideas behind all my art are more or less the same ― human problems.
For me, theatre is a tool for change, real-practice change. I see a direct correlation between what we do when we work with communities and how things change.
That is, we are doing theatre with people ― so I prefer to call myself a facilitator or community organiser rather than a director or trainer.
When I write, besides expressing my concern with social issues, I want to share and maybe provoke alternative, critical perspectives in others.
I’m not sure if that can influence social change, I also don’t know how far that influence can go. I just like writing. And I have to write as an activist.
In my visual art, I paint and draw as a “victim”. It becomes therapy to express my inner feelings ― my protest, my sickness and tiredness, my hope, my anxiety.
For me, life in this world is not ok. As a humanist I have to deal with human problems. I believe happiness is the basic nature of humans, but it is not a problem. That is why you will not see happy things in my drawings and paintings.
What is the concept behind your current exhibition?
In its essence, I like the term suppression. This exhibition is a presentation from a creative period where I have become aware that with the activity of drawing, I am expressing those things that I have suppressed.
I make an effort to explore the area and process of psychology ― or maybe just the subconscious and its visual expression.
My artworks in this exhibition do not pamper the eye and it is precisely this that I am trying to convey ― art is not just a matter of beauty or happiness.
What do you hope will happen with this exhibition?
With this newest exhibition, the important thing is I want to gain some certain experiences ― to understand the interaction between an artist and his artwork with a different audience (First World people) and the potential for enrichment for both sides.
For me this is the most significant experience because different cultures and different social-politic-economic backgrounds I believe have different aesthetic paradigms.
I hope this is some kind of small case dialogue between countries ― actually we make a lot of “dialogue” between Indonesia and First World countries or let’s say between the “Third World” and “First World” ― but the daily practice of interaction is not collaborative, but one of domination.
What I mean is, First World people do not watch Indonesian soap operas but we (Indonesians) watch your (First World) films.
Our youth culture is heavily influenced by “developed country culture”, but youth culture in Australia does not seem to be influenced by Third World culture.
I want to give them a perspective in my own way; in general about my people’s life and especially about a version of aesthetic that grows from this kind of life.
Last but not least, I am very sure that all my experiences through this exhibition will be a step forward for me as an artist.