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A ghostly, drum-beating army is on the march, but without advancing by a single inch: a lame-dog bunch of automata wearing the uniform of the royal guard of the Indonesian sultanate that disappeared in 1945. Boots, leggings, jackets, hats, guns and musical instruments reduced to a strict minimum are hooked up to an electronic system that sets the drums playing, with a silhouette projected on the wall keeping time. Is Jompet Kuswidananto’s military masquerade installation funny or tragic? "Unity in Diversity" is the national motto of Indonesia, a country whose cultural mosaic is spread over thousands of islands. The dominant Javanese culture haunts the Kuswidananto oeuvre: instead of preserving their folklore at all costs and turning it into a hermetic identity, the Javanese, over the centuries, appropriated all the nation’s different cultures, and in the process became creoles in their own land. “Java’s Machine" gives visible expression to Indonesia’s seething cultural relationships and homes in on the different beliefs and values overlaid on the nation’s recent history.
Java’s Machine : Phantasmagoria, 2008
Photos: Blaise Adilon
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