Mekratingrum Hapsari / Surakarta – Central Java
“I Don’t Care, Thank You!”
“I Don’t Care, Thank You!“
by Mekratingrum Hapsari
Surakarta – Central Java
The will of the universe is often unexpected. When I heard the title “Bodies of Care” I immediately threw a question to myself, “do I care enough that I deserve participating in the DokumenTari Series #3 selection? The word “care” made me hesitate to get involved in the exploration of this program. I realized not only my writing skill is very minimal, but also my ability to care is not that big.
To my knowledge, DokumenTari is a program for selected artists to share stories, experiences, and journeys of individual artistic life through writing. In the DokumenTari Serie #3, DokumenTari collaborated with the Goethe Institute and offered something different than before. In this serie, selected participants are required to create instructional works for the public. I’ve never had the experience of making something in the form of instructions, especially with the target of the public group.
However, I encouraged myself to register by sending a short article containing basic knowledge about care. I doubted it would pass, but thus, the will of the universe is so immeasurable. I was declared qualified with 6 other artists from Indonesia and 3 German artists. We then worked together for approximately four months, got mentoring from LIGNA (Germany) and Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia) to search, discuss, exchange ideas, and arrange ideas into an instruction.
The question is, do I care about the surroundings?
What is the form of absolute care?
Will compassion be enough to show one’s care?
Being a listener, hosting friends’ anxiety stories, giving advice as much as possible, is it enough to be said that we care?
I’m not an angel and don’t always have the urge to help or give attention. I want to be more sensitive, to be able to understand what other people need without them having to ask first. This kind of thought has caused doubt and affected the Bodies of Care process.
The other participating artists associate their sense of care with the community in their respective regions. I also tried to look for “materials” or “objects” of care that I could take up. As someone who is rarely at home, I often see newspaper merchants at the intersection of Solo city streets. They wait for buyers, peddling newspapers from car to car, hoping someone buys their newspaper.
When they came to me, I declined their offer, and the same things happened repeatedly. Why buy and read newspapers when now we can easily access all news on our own mobile phones? A snob question of a reality that cannot be denied. The hard struggle of newspaper merchants moved me to explore more in their lives and the position of newspapers in the present.
This initial process made my mind go round and round endlessly. I didn’t know where to start and what the desired work looked like. During that time, I observed the activities of newspaper merchants from a distance. I was getting ready to get closer and find out how they work every day. I saw that they were willing to work from morning to evening without any friends replacing them and understood that not necessarily a single newspaper could be sold. How much money do they earn in a day? Why do they survive such a job? Or maybe they have another job? With more than 8 hours on the streets, what other jobs do they have for the rest of the day? The fate they experienced looked unfair to my eyes.
I wrote all my observations so I could talk about the culture of reading (newspapers) in the Bodies of Care project. But this idea felt less powerful. What was exactly do I want to say? Would the newspaper merchant be involved in this work? How did I ask participants to compose word for word to create a large article plastered on the wall so that everyone cares about the reading culture? If this work was collaborated and taken to a different place, various needs would be an obstacle because so many materials must be prepared. The execution would be like a wall magazine at school or a kindergarten kid making graffiti on a wall.
Dizzy? Of course! Feeling like you can’t find the light? Exactly! Honestly this is my weakness as an artist, I don’t feel sensitive enough to dig into the restlessness that exists. I was far from newspaper merchant, street, and reading. I fret about why I was agitated about something far away and I didn’t even know that its origin is just for the sake of executing the idea of a work.
Speaking of anxiety, the DokumenTari team is very open with one-on-one mentoring. I had the opportunity and space to “confide”, gathered with Bubbu Keni, Galuh, Ferry, Zul, and Ogik, a participant from Bali who is also a good friend of mine. Ogik explained his idea while discussing, making me feel far behind! He already has a strong foundation on care for a community and himself. At that time, I really felt empty not knowing what to talk about and felt like a failure with the idea of a newspaper merchant issue. I became reflective and could see that I wasn’t really internalizing the initial idea that had been put forward.
The DokumenTari team did not stay silent, they were curious and tried to dig up the basics of Mike first. Starting from there I began to look back at how I was, what experiences I had during my life, what kind of feelings or responses I showed when I was in a certain situation. All the questions were thrown at me in search of substance.
“Indifference is another layer of care.” There is a presence and then there is an absence. A presence is meaningful because of absence. Care is also meaningful because of indifferences.
Wait a minute, I seem to know! The indifference that comes out and even appears from the imperious facial lines and intimidating eyes is how I defend myself from the experiences and problems I’ve faced. I didn’t just don’t care about others, but even about myself. I never asked Mike how he felt all along, because I just thought that he had to be strong to face everything.
I remember praying. Thanks to the Catholic education I had, I was able to have an exact time to pray and to know how to love others. Not because of demands, but I realized that prayer can be self-soothing.
Every night before going to bed I pray. I feel grateful for life, safety, all the energy and everything I did and got that day. I pray that tomorrow could be a lucky day. Then I paused for a moment, remembering the prayer and everything in it. Repeatedly say thank you, and pray for my loved ones to stay healthy, safe, and always in His participation. I repeatedly thanked everyone who helped me, to parking attendants, food vendors, security guards, and anyone I didn’t know.
It’s funny, right? We can easily say thank you to people who aren’t close to us, but sometimes it’s hard to express affection or thank your own parents? This thought makes the word “thank you” swirl in my head. Without realizing it, I really had great care. It’s just that I’m not eloquent enough to express it with gestures and words.
“Thank you to all of you who have helped, accompanied and supported me. Thank you to all of our parents who have been with us and loved us to this day.”
This sentence became my foundation for changing the concepts and materials that would be used as instructional work in Bodies of Care. I felt enlightened after going through the confiding and contemplation process. Our parents are the closest people, the main shield to protect us, but have we said thank you to them?
However, not everyone has a good experience with their parents. Not everyone has a good relationship and inner bonding with their parents. Not everyone behaves ‘politely’ to both parents, such as kissing hands when they come home or away and speaking a good and correct choice of language according to age. This fact somewhat messed up my attempts to draw up an instruction.
With the help of my DokumenTari team friends and mentoring with LIGNA and Melati, I finally decided to further expand the subject in this work, which is “your loved ones.” This can be anyone! Parents, best friends, friends, lovers, grandparents, siblings, or even someone you don’t know but they’ve helped you in any trouble. Saying thank you means a lot to those who have loved us, even if it was not asked.
The opening question to initiate the instructions has been made. In the arranging process, many things being considered, such as: parental gestures to their children and vice versa. Not everyone kisses the hands of their parents during farewell or meeting, and I turned it into holding hands. During the instruction trial, there was a moment where participants remembered their loved one by describing his or her face in the air with their fingers.
I was not sure what had been arranged, whether it was right and could be understood by others or not? Seeing the results of the instructions made by the other participant friends made me discouraged. I heard them arranged an instruction that was able to move the participants’ bodies to move freely. What about the instructions I made which narrative contains meditative nuances like taking part in a retreat? By using candles and writing letters addressed to loved ones, is the choice of language and medium in this work easy to understand and to apply by participants later?
The long-awaited day has arrived. After preparing everything carefully, I waited for the arrival of the participants. One by one the invited guests and friends attended the activation that I made. I was ready and resigned no matter what happens and how the response of participants who listen to this work instructions.
Unexpectedly, the situation turned out to be heartwarming. All the participants who did the instructions cried remembering the figure they loved. Crying as they said thank you loudly and unashamedly. Everyone gives smiles, glances, and hugs to those around them.
This made me realize that the instructions in the work of ‘Thank You’ can lead people to reminisce about the services of every person who had an important role in their lives. A very positive and unexpected response altogether, completely beyond my imagination. It was unexpected.