MAASTRICHT.- The Bonnefanten
presents Melati Suryodarmo (1969, Surakarta, Indonesia) as the eleventh winner of the Bonnefanten Award for Contemporary Art (BACA). On 12 June, the museum opened the exhibition I am a Ghost in My Own House, Suryodarmos first big solo exhibition in Europe and the Netherlands. Suryodarmo is a versatile artist, but is particularly known for her compelling performances. In her work, she interprets strong political and social insights in a poetic and physical visual idiom. Awarding her the BACA is a welcome reason for the Bonnefanten to present Melati Suryodarmo to the public in the Netherlands and to pay tribute to one of the pioneers of performance art.
I am a Ghost in My Own House
The title of the exhibition comes from Suryodarmos performance of the same name, which lasts for twelve hours. In this performance, she grinds charcoal on a stone mortar for twelve hours, exhausting herself, while also drawing on the energy potential of the charcoal. Suryodarmo therefore sees the charcoal as symbolic of a life cycle that inevitably ends in death.
For Suryodarmo, pulverising the charcoal symbolises her tiredness and physical exhaustion, which are coupled with her being uprooted and her return to Indonesia after living in Germany for many years. This explains the title I am a Ghost in My Own House. --Philippe Pirotte, guest curator
The works in the exhibition show the versatility of her artistry. Alongside performances, you also see video installations, photography and drawings. For her other work, Suryodarmo also takes inspiration from her lengthy performances, important elements of which are the focus on her body and the way she deals with or shapes time.
She regards her body as an archive and a landscape, and as her connection to the world. Her body is her familiar place of refuge, which is a greater constant than any physical space whatsoever. Time is essential to her work and the experience of it, as it transforms the performer, the audience and the space. Through aspects of her work like duration, slowness, observation, introspection and interaction, she aims to transgress the short concentration span of our individual, passive consumerism.
Suryodarmo trained at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Braunschweig, in Germany. A chance encounter brought her into contact with the famous Anzu Furukawa, with whom she studied butoh (a Japanese theatre form that combines different disciplines and techniques, such as dance, performance and movement), following which she took classes in performance art with the renowned Marina Abramović.
Suryodarmos performances reflect her own ideas and cultural background, and concern the relationship between the human body, the defining cultural traditions to which the body belongs and the context in which it lives. She focuses on concepts like home, spirituality, family and personal history, interweaving them with socio political, activist and mainly feminist ideas. Partly as a result of politics and gender discrimination, her work has long gone unnoticed. Through her indefatigable efforts to forge connections between art and artists and society, Suryodarmo has become a key figure in the cultural world of Indonesia. Nowadays, her name is widely known and acknowledged in South-East Asia and elsewhere, yet unaccountably her work has not received a great number of international awards or solo exhibitions.
In agreement with laureate Melati Suryodarmo, Philippe Pirotte (1972, Belgium) was chosen as the guest curator of the exhibition in the Bonnefanten. Pirotte is an art historian, curator and critic, and dean of the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste Städelschule and of Portikus, a leading centre for contemporary art in Germany and elsewhere.