Aloft at Hermes FAQ - Some Other Matter
1. Tell us more about the title “Some Other Matter”.
It derives from some other material, some other physical substance, some other issue to be deal later on. It is about abandonment throughout the point of view from material and how we associate it through everyday life. In our absence, it changes, shaped by nature and other people, become some other thing, some other matter.
2. What is the inspiration behind Some Other Matter? What is the key focus of this installation?
I was particularly inspired by Diana Shpungin’s work about object empathy, feeling towards object. Whenever she sees house covered with plank board, it automatically negated all the memory about the house, everything inside is shut in and unseen. She then covered the house with graphite, projected images to the opened windows of the house, revealing some of the house memory and universal memory about home.
3. Take us through the creative process of Some Other Matter.
On July last year, I bought an abandoned musholla (a place similar to and smaller than a mosque for praying and gathering of Muslim community) and turned it into a decent studio that I desperately needed. Such an action normally sparks an outrage among the neighborhood, but turns out that musholla has been abandon by the neighborhood for roughly 2 years due to a little bit extreme way of congregation and also there are many alternative mosque and musholla nearby. During the abandonment, it was put on sale, but having no luck selling it because the religious implication of it and the interior is unfit for living space of a family. I, as a non-religious person, only saw it as a space and a thing fit for my need, but I noticed a similar issue everywhere in Indonesia. Before I bought it, it became a dumping ground, illegal parking lot and I think some teenager used to hang out there for smoking and drinking alcohol due to some of the garbage I found during clean up. In its abandonment the musholla lost its intrinsic value as a holy place and a place to commute for the people around it, and became another thing fit to everyone in the neighborhood needs - discreetly. Due to various reason, it’s quite natural here in Indonesia, if there is an empty space and nobody live there, why not store your unwanted things there, or free car park, or become a playground for kids. Beside the nature takes over the place, other people too takes over, transforming it to their need. When I took over the musholla, fixing it and transform it into an artist studio, there are no negative reaction whatsoever, some were relieved it is not part of the neighborhood problem anymore, it just became some other things.
From there, I began to question how detach people to the physical space and the material that makes it. There are many house building site half developed and abandoned, leaving the building material exposed and taken over by nature, common view in South East Asia, except Singapore. I find it similar on how we are losing the needs to communicate information through print media, a very physical medium, we just simply moving on into digital media eliminating physical interaction through objects. I use paper to regrow the information that is missing though out our abandonment, revealing the memories associated with the material.
4. How does Some Other Matter relate to the theme of Materiality?
It is about the changing perception of material, how we detach ourself further from physical matter through the advancement of digital technology. I’m showing materiality through the absence of human, what are the memory we implemented to the memory and what nature and other people done to the physical matter overtime.
5. How would you describe your artistic practice and works?
I was trained as a graphic designer with modernist discipline, I think the best way to describe the discipline is to use the term coined by Jan Tschichold: the engineer. Finding solution without the references of the past, seeking new things to develop. It affected my artistic practice later on, on how I see functionality and essentiality in material especially paper, balancing craftsmanship and mass production. Paper become a huge part of my practices, I love the history of it and the wide range of functionality it provides for our everyday life, it gives me varieties of how to interact and to communicate with people.
6. How do you see Some Other Matter in relation to some of your previous works? What new boundaries have you pushed? Did you do something different that you would never have done before?
In my previous work, I intended to change our perception of paper, by turning it into other material that we perceive has better value and stronger, focusing into the materiality itself. It is still part of the exhibition, but I’m assosiating it with the changes that happens in paper and printing industry in this digital age. I’ve rarely done social political work in my artmaking, but I always want to do this as an ode to my city’s (Bandung) printing industry.
7. What is it about paper that intrigued or appealed to you, such that you’ve decided to use it as your primary material?
When I was studying visual communication design in LASALLE, I always told paper is a magic material for graphic designer. The things people have with it amaze me, turning a simple and fragile material into unexpected things. Paper has changed the world dramatically before, it changed how we do mass-communication. The Protestant Reformation won’t happened without the help of printing technology and economical material such as paper that made books less costly, affordable to the masses, giving the freedom of interpreting information. For me, growing up in a family of engineers, I think the first thing that attract me to paper is the challenge of turning it into something stronger, functional and more importantly something new.
Documentation from Pagarsih Street, Bandung, Indonesia, the 1.4 km street alone held more than 100 print shops and hundred other shop that support the industry.
8. You’ve mentioned that in your 12 years of experimenting with paper and print, you are still able to find new things and are excited to think about the possibilities ahead. What are some of these new and exciting things that you have discovered?
There are over 200 print shop and over 100 shop supporting it just in my city. Working closely with them gives me new ideas, there are a lot of other process I haven’t tried before. In contrast with industrial process, my residency in the Jeonju, South Korea on 2016 gave me a new perspective of how people interact with traditional paper (hanji). I think there are still plenty possibility for me to develop, but the challenge is to bring it to today’s context and present it as art.
9. There are many articles and speculations about the future of paper. How would you imagine the future of paper?
Compare to the 90’s, with the limitation of internet and digital technology, we couldn’t see it will replace paper and print completely. The digital technology in that era boosted the demand of paper and print, because the efficiency it brought to the printing production. Mass communication was still dominated by print media, now it is dominated by digital media. Printing information on paper decline, but with rise of e-commerce the needs to print packaging is growing. It was predicted the world demand for paper and paperboard is forecast to grow to 482 million tons in 2030 (https://www.poyry.com/news/paper-and-paperboard-market-demand-forecast-grow-nearly-fifth-2030). Because the wide range of functionality of paper, there always be a demand for it. Maybe book will become a novelty and expensive item in the future because of the rare demand for graphic paper and the industry that process it.
10. How do you see the advent of digital technology affecting your work?
I missed seeing my mom’s photo album, all the photos printed and arranged nicely compared to photos of my daughter I just stored in my phone. Or getting information from printed media, having time to reflect upon the information, rather than bombarded by news constantly from my phone. And I still remember doing gallery and artspace hoping because of seeing the exhibition poster on the poster board in each gallery and artspace, but now seeing the photos of the exhibition in instagram eliminate the need to visit the gallery/artspace. The digital technology has progress so far in last decade, it made us detach further from physical objects, everything has become more image oriented.
11. How have your works developed over time and what can we expect to see more of in future?
In every artwork I always push my own limit, solving each problem that comes with it and keep developing something yet undiscovered. In time I need to expand my capacity of art-making to facilitate the new ideas.
12. What were your thoughts when you were invited by Aloft at Hermès to do a site-specific installation at Level 4 of the Hermès Liat Towers store?
Excited and terrified in the same time. Hermès is world famous for their dedication in the quality of the material and in their craftsmanship. It surely put me under a lot pressure, but challenged me to try something new for the site-specific installation.
13. Through the process of preparing for Some Other Matter, what would you say are some of the highlights and/or challenges?
I would say the way I start my artmaking process usually begin from series of experiment, but for Some Other Matter started from research and takes a long time to develop and discuss it into clear idea. It doubles the time needed to prepare the exhibition, but I think it helps develop myself further as an artist.