Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Militaristic Act 'PUNKASILA': A Band-Formatted Art Project

Danius is an Australian artist carrying out a residency program in Yogyakarta in cooperation between Asialink Australia and Cemeti Art Foundation (CAF) Yogyakarta and also supported by Arts Victoria and the Australia Indonesia Institute. He has fulfilled his residency from December 1, 2005 until March 27, 2006. Although his basis is sculpture but he works more on site specific installation during his art career. Along with some colleagues in several occasions of residencies in other countries, he created bands namely Lion Grion, Slave Piano, and Histrionics by performing definitely different kinds of music one another; Lion Grion in ska music, Slave Piano with orchestra concept, and Histrionics parodying famous songs and inserting lyrics in visual arts theme.


It is not the first time for Danius to visit Indonesia. About a previous year, he presented a visual arts exhibition at Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarta with several Australian colleagues under the curacy of Stuart Koop. The impression on the life of visual arts and various phenomena on Indonesian politics have inspired Danius to work on an art project for his recent residency accompanied by Samuel Bagas Wiraseto or commonly called as Gentong as his assistant.

Beginning from a book entitled “The Politic of Indonesia” issued by Melbourne University Press, Australia, Danius thinks over his idea on band deeply. He collaborates with some students of Indonesian Art Institute, Yogyakarta. Punkasila is this band then called. It is formed around the middle of January 2005 and consists of 9 personals; Uji “Hahan” Handoko (23 years old) on vocal, Danius Kesminas (40 years old) also on vocal, Rudi “Aceh” Dharmawan (24 years old), and Iyok Prayogo Satrio Utomo (25 years old) on guitar, Janu Satmoko (24 years old) on bass, Prihatmoko “Moki” Catur Wicaksono (24 years old) on drum, Wimo Ambala Bayang (29 years old) on noisy machine, and Gde Krisna Widyathama (23 years old) on keyboard. Hahan, Aceh, Iyok, Janu, Moki, and Krisna are students of graphic arts of Institut Seni Indonesia
[1] (ISI), Yogyakarta and Wimo is about to finish his study on photography. The name of Punkasila is inspired by Pancasila, five principles formulated as the base of unity on Indonesian nation. Do not be deceived by its name because the personals say that the interest was not merely punk but rock especially.

The song titles they sing are also the song lyrics. To mention some of them are TNI (Tentara Nasional Indonesia), Bakorstanas, DEN (Dewan Ekonomi Nasional), BIN (Badan Intelijen Negara), and Laskar Jihad. On its early times, the songs are mostly inspired by militaristic or political acronyms as mentioned above. Later on, on their musical tracks, they begin to utter larger acronyms out of the existing political themes like KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) which is then parodied as Kentuku (meaning being asked to buy in Javanese) Fried Chicken, and Unjem (Universitas Jember). Another is PKI widely known as Partai Komunis Indonesia becomes Pecinta Kaos Indonesia! When we examine them, we will find out that they only create repetitions of these acronyms definitions in the song lyrics. The problem of time within which Danius is to stay about 3 months only is admitted by the personals as the cause of repetition factor in the lyrics. However, this condition makes them feel safe to sing the songs without any intention to offend particular political or social organizations. “Every thing is given back to the audience how they make themselves familiar with the purpose and enjoy the music,” they say.

As we know, there are 17 song titles created which are arranged together and six songs out of them are created by Danius himself. They say that those songs were original and a result of collaboration among them even though some of them adopted the keys of popular songs. As an example the arrangement of the song PNU (Partai Nadlatul Ulama) adopts one of the songs popularized by a group band of Black Sabbath. It goes to other songs like TNI adopted from Sex Pistol and Iron Maiden for KFC.

Not simply as supporting costume for performance, the Punkasila’s costume designed in military style is a unity and important element to be left in each of the performance. Being supplied with used clothes from many stores spreading around every corner in Yogyakarta, the members wear them and complete the performance with identity emblems like “Yogyakarta” as the origin, names and titles such as “S.Sn.” (almost all of them have not finished their studies yet though) and also other attributes relating to the characteristics of each personal. In the quotation of Aisyah Hilal’s writing in the newsletter of SURAT YSC Volume 26, November 2005 – January 2006 (issued by CAF), Danius stated why the choice fell to military costumes. He admits “I have never symphatized with the military. So, when we decide to wear the customes on stage, again, for me it is an expression of strong contradiction: we do not like them but “trap ourselves” within. Moreover, who can deny that military costumes are fashionable? Even Calvin Klein or Yves Saint Laurent adopt them! It can be a kind of test on how the audience will respond to our musical and visual performance,” he says.

The logo of Punkasila band is released in two versions. The first logo adopts the icon of Burung Garuda,
[2] on its feet clutched a weapon weaving the flag of Punkasila and on its chest spread out an acronym of PSI (Penjabaran Singkatan Indonesia) designed by a young talented artist, Iwan Effendi. The second logo adopts one of puppet characters that is Semar designed by Hahan, one of the vocalists in the band. Why is Semar, a character with the impression of slow-moving and savage as the image of the band? According to Hahan, Semar portrays two different sides of human being. From the physical appearance, Semar looks like a woman but in fact is a man. Semar which is described as a wise figure can also do tricky things. However, with some particular considerations, the logo with Semar icon is circulated more in its several publications. This puppet theme has inspired an art collaboration between Danius and a Yogyakarta artist, Pius Sigit Kuncoro, to adapt puppet forms into Punkasila’s personals in the video clip-making later on.

To perfect the performance of Punkasila, Danius elaborates his idea with some ISI graduates, one of them is Adhik Kristiantoro, in modifying three ordinary guitars remodelled and changed into a new guitar inspired by the weapon designs such as M-16, AK-47, and so on. To modify those guitars with a new design, Danius has to grope in his pocket more than a million rupiah for each. Although they are fantastic from the aesthetic side but according to the personals the modified guitars do not support them functionally. Those guitars are also equipped with hard cases or boxes made specially in embossed logo of “Punkasila” with leather outside and military motif inside of them handy-painted in batik technique by a textile artist, Abdul Hamid.

It is definitely a month preparation from recruiting band personals until forming a unified band but do not doubt its shaking performance and dialogue with audience. Using icons of the military from the band’s name, costumes, musical instruments until expressions in its releases such as “last terror (read: final performance) and “serangan fajar” (read: a morning performance). Even though the lyrics presented sound “hard” but they manage to perform in “light”, fresh, parodied, and satirical. It is proved by the audience’s enthusiasm through their road shows in Ours Café, Semarang (February 11, 2006), IF, Bandung (February 18, 2006), Radical Café and Omah Panggung, Yogyakarta (March 24-25, 2006).
Their first album to release entitles “Acronym Wars”. The master recording is processed in a music studio in Yogyakarta. The mixing and finishing process is done by Danius in Australia under the flag of Wok the Rock’s Realino Records, Yogyakarta and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney. It will be launched along with a catalogue on art project in an exhibition.

The gaps on age, language, culture, art experience, and musical plays between Danius who is the think tank of the band and the other personals have triggered some frictions among them. It is regarded as something common in bands and can be managed by them in the running time. In the middle of the ups and downs on diplomatic relationship between Indonesia and Australia, the personals after all, do not take it personally in regards to Danius as an Australian man. They are quite proud of themselves and satisfied with things they have got so far; playing music, doing show performances, distributing merchandises, and preparing for Punkasila’s first album and visual arts exhibition presented as soon as Danius gets back from Australia.

It seems to strengthen a review to make a mark on the development of Indonesian contemporary art as written by Mella Jaarsma and Nindityo Adipurnomo in their catalogue article “The 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2005”. They say that as if the young artists were facing a political situation which was “separated from the collective enemy” known by the previous generation as the ruler’s political regime. This generation seems to escape from the real happening on socio-political intensity and it emerges in the surface in a number of presentations impressing “lightness”, “enjoyment”, and “amusement”.

Last but not least, “This band-formatted art project is an integrated performance which is unique in terms of combining comprehensively between music, craft arts, textile arts, and performance arts itself in one word consolidate,” Gentong says.
[1] Indonesian Art Institute Yogyakarta[2] Bird in the official seal of Republic of Indonesia

Published:
http://www.artsmanagement.net/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=707
http://www.resartis.org/index.php?id=42&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=376&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=17&cHash=be7f31d461
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