Thu, 31 Aug 2000

Artist Tisna Sanjaya in search of peace

By Matdon

BANDUNG (JP): When trying to get a good grasp of the ideas of Tisna Sanjaya, a 52-year-old graphic artist from Bandung, most would first raise their brows before finally comprehending his pristine ideas. Some may smile bitterly, laugh in pain or burst into tears for no apparent reason.

A year ago, he paraded around Bandung five wooden statues of naked men with erect penises in an installation exhibition called "Monument Marking 32 Years of Thinking with Your Knees" and then installed them in the yard of the West Java regional legislative council, in front of the Bandung regional police headquarters, at the French Cultural Center and in other corners of the city. At first people assumed he was putting on a dirty show.

However, once this display was understood to be a form of enlightenment, a piece of self-criticism for this nation, it was then realized that the idea was indeed beautiful and brilliant.

Between Sept. 5 and Sept. 30, Tisna Sanjaya again exhibits his works at Cemeti Arts House in Yogyakarta. This time it is titled Art and Football Peace. Again, he had a breakthrough of ideas about the life of the Indonesian nation in his etches and sketches. These works are hard to understand at first, but after knitting our brows, they set us contemplating, absorbed in his free-flowing thoughts.

Art and Football Peace is a rather weird exhibition because, apart from the aesthetic elements displayed in the exhibition room of Cemeti, all graphic works were made with an etching technique on a water container, 16 black-and-white drawings are on a piece of plaited bamboo formerly used for a wall, depicting life's journey and supplemented with poems as text.

Outside the exhibition room, a soccer match is held, participated in by some 20 teams from Bandung and Yogyakarta.

The matches are held on a small field, with the goal posts resembling the genital of a woman. Perhaps Tisna intended this to depict fertility, a place out of which a fresh generation will emerge. Or, perhaps, it depicts a game played by people who do not want to be left behind by others in conveying their desires, be they legally justified or otherwise.

On the field there is also a place where clothes are washed and another for making traditional herbal concoctions. This may be understood to mean cleansing one's own guilt, then losing control of oneself again, and afterward taking the herbal concoction, being cured but eventually returning to negligence.

At the opening of the exhibition and the performance, there was a message that soccer symbolizes peace. According to Tisna, compared with other kinds of sports, soccer has the most body contact and instances of negligence. As part of this exhibition, the soccer matches are participated in by ordinary people and artists from Yogyakarta and Bandung.

Each team is made up of five players. The soccer match itself is called Turtledove Cup and is held at Krapyak Baru field. Around the field, the spectators may give comments, read poems, pray, perform their own cultural pieces, play music and so forth.

Each team must enroll by way of donating a seed to be planted around the field. The champion gets turtledoves, the runner-up gets a motorcycle and third place gets five chickens.

A losing team is dropped. There is just one referee for the entire competition. This must mean that the referee is responsible for everything happening on the field. In soccer matches organized by the All Indonesian Soccer Federation (PSSI), a match is sometimes decided upon by many "referees" such as the soccer players, spectators, members of the governing board, extraordinary members and so forth.

"This is also a depiction of Indonesia as a state. There are 'many' presidents. Many make statements as they wish. Many show their desire to take care of this country and decide things based on their own wishes," Tisna told The Jakarta Post in Bandung.

In this exhibition, Tisna, a fine artist with initiative, is assisted by Wawan S. Husin, who takes care of linguistic matters, the text, the sound and the gestures that soccer players and spectators make. Asmudjo and Aming D Rahman act as critics and video artists.

Art and Football Peace intentionally presents installation/field performance and soccer matches as an art advocacy that the soccer field is our earth which must be safeguarded. It must be provided with a field where honesty blooms and grows and is watered with courage to speak the truth. A prayer must be made in the political, economic, social, cultural and religious arenas to ensure that the world will be a field of peace without violence.

As a whole, the ideas that Tisna brings forth are ordinary. Other artists in Indonesia may also have these ideas. However, in the mind of Tisna, who has held 35 exhibitions at home and abroad, these ideas become crystal-clear, simple and natural. His works are easy to interpret in the context of real life as the ideas behind them are neat although, of course, this interpretation must entail a process of illumination on the part of the community.

In Indonesia, installation work displayed by artists has yet to gain popularity among broad segments of the community, as such work is understood mainly only by the artist community. Tisna's works are actually very close to gaining acceptance by the community. Just like in a soccer match, he is only one step away from scoring a goal: perhaps from a free kick, a penalty kick, penetration, keeping or even a corner kick. It means that it is only a step away for Tisna until his thoughts are understood by people outside of the art world.

Art and Football Peace will also be exhibited in Paris, France, on Oct. 5. Tisna, a lecturer at Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), has in fact exhibited his works several times abroad, such as in Germany, the Netherlands, Australia, the United States and Japan.