Densiel Lebang / Tana Toraja – South Sulawesi
“Where are You Going Today?”
“Where are You Going Today?”
By Densiel Lebang
Tana Toraja – South Sulawesi
The Migrating Body
The body is the real embodiment of tradition. It records all our habits with our senses on our bodies. Yet, tradition is not rigid or unchangeable. Tradition can transform according to the way human life responds to everyday situations that the body faces. At the same time, the body records internal experiences. It also records other bodies encountered outside its own.
In facing the development of human civilization, the body inevitably has to adapt to all changes which then result in changes to the body that holds certain traditions or cultures.
My quest for art is about the body. As a physical material that shapes humans into a real figure, it is often used in the context of appearance, health, and death. As a unified human element that can see, hear, touch, and so on, the body has the awareness to interact with the world through hearing, touch, vision, senses of smell and taste. It’s a manifestation of life since feelings, memories, habits, and everything else that may be difficult to describe are there included.
I was born in Bulukumba, one of the regencies in the South Sulawesi province, located on the southernmost side of the island of Sulawesi. Bulukumba is a coastal area, well known as the place where the first Pinisi ships were built, and the majority population is Bugis. I lived there until I was 3 years old and moved to Pakatto Village at the bottom of the foot of Mount Bawakaraeng. I lived in Pakatto until I was 8 years old, then moved to Makassar city.
South Sulawesi has four (4) dominant tribes: Mandar, Bugis, Makassar, Toraja. I am Toraja. Geographically, Toraja is located in a mountainous area. When I was 17 years old, I moved to Jakarta to pursue further education and have been living there for almost ten years now. But here is the weird thing, I still live in East Kalimantan as written on my ID Card since I also often go back and forth there. I really like moving from place to place to find out how the body works in a certain space and time. Of course, this affects how my body records all the “migration codes” from one place to another, and from one moment to another. The concept of “going home” is then biased. This also confused me when the DokumenTari team asked me where I am from for their publication purposes. Anxiety arose when I was asked about the origin and cultural identity. Which in my opinion it needs no more explanation because all of that is already in the body itself.
I think the cosmopolitan mindset is more relevant today and especially regarding the DokumenTari program which talks about care. With this way of thinking, we will have a sense of responsibility for what happens to other humans despite their differences.
Jakarta is the capital city of Indonesia, the most populous city in Southeast Asia. It is natural for Jakarta to be a somewhat chaotic place. As an urban city, Jakarta is a melting pot, a place where all forms of culture in Indonesia fuse. People migrate to Jakarta for various reasons, one of which is to seek a better life. Bodies of urban people in Jakarta offer a different culture, not traditional narratives that are already standard. But the daily narratives are dynamic and changing, everything is moving, nothing is static, even the design and infrastructure of this city continues to develop.Jakarta, a city that never rests, a city that is always busy and constantly offers change, a place of nostalgia stuck between tradition and modernity, where the past and the future meet. Jakarta is a metropolis that offers a lot of luxury but at the same time is full of dirt and poverty. A city where shack dwellers coexist with skyscrapers. A city that constantly transforms. This transformation presents a cross-culture that creates new sub-cultures so that questions on the body in this city are getting more complex.
The online driver community or known as ojek online (online motorcycle taxi) is a manifestation of the complex humanitarian issues in urban areas, especially in Jakarta. Ojek online is a new element in technology that functions to make ends meet. This group has become one of the subcultures in Jakarta. How do their systems work and what do they need?
Ojek online offers application technology-based services as a medium for ordering to facilitate users to meet their daily needs. They prepare transportation based on order instructions. This application works with Google Maps on smartphones to help drivers find the pick-up and drop-off locations.
Observing their work system, I have an idea to create an instruction system based on travel data stored in the ojek online application. From the travel data taken, the participants in this project can imagine that they are travelling in Jakarta.
Through this system, we experience a post-body era where technology can take us to travel through space and time.
Process in Bodies of Care
I see that there are power relations created by the online transportation system. Does the instructive system in it make the user or customer powerful? The same sentence is my question in this program. Do the instructions in the instructional choreography with the theme “Bodies of Care” make the creator, who incidentally acts as the giver of instructions, a person with the authority?
Online transportation is a manifestation of social changes that occur in urban society. These changes affect the social system, including aspects of values, attitudes, and behaviour patterns among community groups. This social system with power relations is what I want to examine in-depth, with ojek online as the research subject.
The following are my brief notes on each session during the “Bodies of Care” process based on the big questions above:
LIGNA: Gamification in Art
In the first session, the keyword that popped into my head was “game”. This word contains a paradox. Through games, what you want to bring to the surface is playing activities. Meanwhile, in designing a game, other discourses must also be taken into account, such as politics, psychology, social, economics, etc. This means that there are complexities in game-designing that make me curious about how to add gamification elements in a work, as LIGNA does in their work. This has triggered me to add gamification elements to a project that I am preparing.
According to Huizinga, playing existed before humans got civilized. As he explains in the book Homo Ludens, the essence of playing can be seen in every aspect of civilization such as war, religion, politics, sports, to art.
DokumenTari brought us together with Butet Manurung, an education activist. His explanation helped me to formulate the implementation of “care” in an “instructive” system. He explained that education is like giving people the freedom to choose. Because even though life is full of instructive systems, there is also flexibility in it. The keywords “freedom” and “flexibility are interesting findings for my creative process.
His presentation made me wonder about the existence of a system. How does the system work? What is my position in a particular system, and what are the power relations within it? I live in an urban ecosystem that offers a flexible cultural system. But it stands from the constant changing sub-cultures, making people continue to adapt and negotiate with various occurring transformations.
Post Body Era
Melati Suryodarmo revealed that a dance work is not only to produce aesthetic movements but also to present reality. It questions the position of the body within a situational context. When today will be history in the future, then what urgency is necessary to be raised within the art? The pandemic presents an urgent situation that we have never imagined before, so what kind of body representation will be present after this? Are we now in a post-body era where the presence of the body is no longer a physical matter but is mediated by another medium?
Sascia Bailer: Artist as Activist
Sascia Bailer gave an interesting presentation about a project she initiated on creating a method of care by collecting data from work systems and the needs of a particular community. When drawn to the context of instructional performance, the question arises: am I formulating a care method or am I exploiting my sense of care for the sake of performance?
This question is reflective, not sarcastic or negative. From this session, I saw that an artist is an activist who works for the benefit of many people and how art can be a bridge in the struggle for the rights and interests of many people.
“Where Are You Going Today?”
“Where are You Going Today?” is an instructional work that comes from the research during the “Bodies of Care” process. With the guidance of DokumenTari and the Goethe Institute, I tried to formulate a caring method based on the specific work system of the chosen community, namely the ojek online community. I chose this community because I am a user of their services. Ojek online has a highly useful role in meeting my everyday needs in Jakarta. After some in-depth digging, their way of working is clearly instructive. Cyber Culture in the form of online applications greatly influences me in creating, implementing and activating instructions.
Instruction Implementation and Activation Process
At this stage, I consider the themes of other contributors in determining the starting and ending points of the instructions created. The stopping points were selected and observed for their relevance to the instructions of other contributors, and their suitability with the Jakarta context.
For the first point, I chose the Lapangan Banteng. This location was originally chosen due to the grounding themed instruction created by Hadi, Marlen, and Yasmina. The second point is Tugu Tani, where I activated “Togetherness” by Izabella Herzfeld, Eva Borrmann, Krisna Satya, and Ela Mutiara. I also activate Ogik’s instructional work entitled “Cross”. The third point is Ciliwung River Inspection, the longest river and plays an important role in water management in Jakarta. But now it is one of the dirtiest rivers in the world! I activated “Sounds of the River” by Kurniadi Ilham.
I deliberately do not specify the last point to be activated for the instructive work because, in the end, this instruction seeks to give freedom to anyone to determine the endpoint, and even for previous points as well.
Finally, for me, everyone has the right to choose their own “way”. Then the question is no longer “Where are you going today?” But what will you give wherever you go?