The Narcissist Art Bait

[Jakarta, LTTW] Google, the tech company who program search engine into our curios heads gives us something new to ponder. This time the 1996 founded company is taking a shot at persuading people to care more about arts and culture of the world, exploring mankind creative legacy as the ideal goal.

An application named Google Arts & Culture gain a relatively large attention at the start of 2018. Originally created in 2011; the sudden fame came because a new feature that automatically compare the users self portrait  to works of art.

Our face can be compared to Rembrandt’s self portrait painting or anything else that has a resemblance with us — juxtaposed side by side. The details of the painting are described in the application; we can learn a general knowledge about the painter, the painting, and the museum that keeps it. For now it is limited in the United States, but other countries can easily access it with a VPN.

It wasn’t a significant increase in art enthusiast, instead it can be seen as a significant increase in people who simply like to post their own portrait with some gimmick that accompany their faces. Google try to use a modern behaviour as a bait for a greater purpose, but the worse case comes when people succumb to the comfortable bait without even using it in a wider positive sense like it supposed to be.

At this point, the application is no different than face “filters” or animations that social media such as Snapchat and Instagram use to lure it’s audiences.

In Greek mythology there was a beautiful man named Narcissus. He fell in love with his own reflection in the pool that leads to death. A self absorbed being, still relevant until this day. Google’s new feature and other application that celebrate narcissism are the pool that can reflect our own demise.

It’s seems rhetorical to think that the internet positive effect is to give the users information, ideas, and even perspectives. It goes old when we still uses that argument because the current technology keeps expanding — making room for new negative effects. We must be critical and not take everything for granted, including the one we are comfortable with.

The Google Arts & Culture aspire to be a portal with vast collection of art around the world. It even allows us to take a virtual tour of museums and other art related places. A clear purpose that has the fundamentals of internet creation.

The challenges of the internet era are real, one of them is the unmeasurable success accompanied by more weight on factual failures. We must ask ourselves, does people really broaden their mind when comparing themselves to art pieces or does it stop at just another selfie? Falling deep into the Narcissist art bait.


Attacchi di Pane

“Picture of Today” in the Eyes of Italian Contemporary Dance

[Jakarta, LTTW] December 6, 2017, Listen to the World had the pleasure to watch a contemporary dance performance from Italy; organized by the Italian Cultural Institute (Istituto Italiano di Cultura) at the historical Jakarta Art Building. The group presented a dance routine entitled Attacchi di Pane, choreographed by Federica Galimberti, performed by dancers from the E.sperimenti GDO Dance Company.

The theme of the dance is “Man in Society”, a political work of art that is reflected in the story about the struggle of people in life, both in the west and other places around the world. Just like any other arts that are born and developed in the West such as Rock, Breaking, Dadaism, and so on, this performance showcases that the West culture still responds to its locality. It is no surprise if the symbols used in the dance are stemmed from the culture into which it is born.

This dance is filled with symbols that are manifested in the movement, gestures, and stage properties as the media for the choreographer and the seven dancers to convey the message to the audience. Chairs are used as the symbol for territory and identity, and a large Italian bread, which is the center of the routine, symbolizes the source of life.

A scene in the dance shows how the dancers fight over the large bread, and the story ends with the bread cut in two and shared equally. In Italy (Europe), bread is like rice to Javanese.

Listen to the World sees the struggle in Attacchi di Pane as the reflection of the world’s current political condition that is getting more divided due to greed and the fact that humans are still maintaining their territorial nature. Take proxy wars for example; where big countries fight over for power by making use of smaller countries that are in conflict.

Serrano Sianturi (Chairman of Sacred Bridge Foundation) takes a deeper look on the bread scene. He suggests that the bread scene may be the representation of “break a bread”, a term stemmed from Christian culture in Europe. The depiction of “break a bread” can be found in John 6:1-14, in which Jesus shared five pieces of bread and two pieces of fish to 5,000 hungry people. But, the most famous depiction of this term can be found in the Last Supper, in which Jesus breaks and shares the bread to the Apostles on the eve of his crucifixion and says, “This is my body given to you.” With this story, bread can be seen as the symbol of love, friendship, solidarity, peace, and reconciliation.

Tyas, our colleague and a dance teacher at Namarina Ballet, shares our view. She caught some movements where the dancers imitate the gestures in the painting “The Last Supper” by Leonardo da Vinci. The connection between dance and other forms of art is nothing new, especially in contemporary dance, which is evident in the history of dance in the 20th century USA.

The pioneers of 20th century contemporary dance such as Marta Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Lester Horton have set a new perspective in the world of dance. Marta Graham integrates choreography with visual arts; adopting the artistic concept of Picasso, the architectural works of Frank Lloyd Wright, and Stravinsky’s compositions. Merce Cunningham is the first choreographer who used the Avant Garde approach in his works. Lester Horton pioneered in combining Native American and Afro dance style into Western style. Contemporary dance has continued adopting styles from around the world such as Yoga, Zen, and American Gymnastic to Hip Hop. It is no surprise if Attacchi di Pane also uses this approach.

Keep in mind that Attachi di Pane is from Italy, the country from which ballet is originated. This dance made a progress after the marriage of Queen Catherine de Medici with the King Henry II from France. Even though different in style and movement, ballet and contemporary dance are strongly connected, even more than we know.

While modern dance is the anti-thesis of the ballet tradition, contemporary re-incorporates ballet as much as retaining modern approach and searching beyond the West. Departing from Christian tradition, ballet attempts to move “beyond the limit of human capability” to depict an angel’s move: its grace and beauty. One can see how light and graceful a ballet dancer moves, as if they are “flying and floating”. Modern dance, on the other hand, incorporate human emotions into the movements, and emphasizes gravity in the motion.

This shows that the counter thoughts brought up by modern and contemporary dance traditions would not have existed without ballet. On the other hand, ballet would cease to develop without modern and contemporary dances as counter parts.

E.SPERIMENTI Workshop: Brief Interview with Namarina’s Students

The Attacchi di Pane program involved dance students from various institutions in Jakarta to take part in a dance workshop taught by the choreographer. Several students from Namarina Dance Academy (partner of Listen to the World) also participated in this workshop.

Before the routine was presented, participants were given the chance to perform their creations from the workshop. Listen to the World had an opportunity to briefly interviewed two participants from Namarina Dance Academy: Kirana Nasywadara (Ara) and Dwigdi Diksita (Didi). They shared their experience and expressed their hopes to Listen to the World.

Ara commented that she learned a new method and gained a new perspective that is different from the tradition of ballet and also learned basic breathing skill, how to use their abdomen. Didi said that she learned about how to direct the flow of her moves. They felt happy to meet new friends from other institutions. Didi and Ara were very enthusiastic in welcoming the dancers and choreographers from Italy, because this was a rare moment for them. Didi wished that the workshop had longer duration, while Ara wished that she could learn more about skills and techniques than choreography.

When asked about the conception behind Attacchi di Pane, they explained that none of the contents in the workshop touches such subject. Based on its experience in education and culture, Sacred Bridge Foundation believes that this workshop should teach more than just techniques. The participants should be encouraged to understand the conception and thoughts both in historical and cultural perspective, so the participants (in this case they are all Indonesians) learn how to respond to the local context and their identity, so they can be more creative and original.


English Translation by Riri Rafiani




Maritime Museum

Does History Matter to Indonesia?

[Jakarta, LTTW] “Never forget history.” That was what Soekarno, the First President of Indonesia, used to say. Yet recently—in the first month of the 2018—two historical buildings in Jakarta, Indonesia have been damaged.

The day after Jakarta Stock Exchange’s hallway collapsed, Jakarta Maritime Museum was scorched on January 16—leaving half of the building heavily damaged and many of its collections unsalvageable, including the priceless ones. It is such an irony that a maritime museum could be engulfed by flames, when the word “maritime” itself means ‘relating to the sea’. The building once stood as VOC’s spices storage too, which added more historical significance to it. Unfortunately, there are only three maritime museums in Indonesia—including the damaged one—which is a very small number for an archipelago country. Contradictory to what Soekarno used to say, it is hard to justify the significance of history among Indonesian.

One thing that needs to be well-pondered is that maritime is the original culture of Indonesia that needs to be revived. However, the question remains: could Indonesia revive the culture while a large number of us are still ignorant of our own history?

Long before this incident happened, maritime culture has long been abandoned—imposed by monoculture during colonialism. This unfavorable situation has blurred our memories, as if the story of Majapahit Kingdom uniting the archipelago with its warships was just another bedtime story. Courage, hunger for exploration, willingness to take risks, and solidarity are maritime values that are very rare to be found among Indonesians today. The role of fishermen these days is only seen as a profession to lift economic welfare; nothing more, nothing less. This narrowed role is even enforced by the government’s campaign. The culture, together with its history and values, is just kept in museums as “memories” rather than living inside the people.

When Soekarno told us not to forget history, does it really mean simply to remember? In Listen to the World’s opinion, “not forgetting” means to learn from it. History is what gives us today, so it’s essential to see history as a source of knowledge. Thanks to history, we could learn from our mistakes so we would not repeat making the same ones. By comprehending our roots, we would uphold the contained values and keep our identity intact. Those are essential if we want to revive and improve the culture within the nation towards a better future.


Freedom of Speech and Social Media

Freedom of Speech is important to us. It allows us not only to share our voices, but also to obtain and learn more knowledge from others. Social Media, in this frame of mind, should be a perfect platform for it, because the volume and immediacy of the exchange are incredible.

Yet in reality – in the name of “freedom of speech,” a large number of us still use Social Media senselessly; from bullying people’s opinions, sharing immoral jokes, spreading hoax, igniting conflicts to encouraging violence. With (human) rights comes responsibility, but in social media, where the interaction is indirect and often in disguised, how can anyone be responsible for what he/she says? If we can’t, is this how freedom of speech (in social media) should be?