The Jakarta museum celebrates its first anniversary with three solo presentations of conceptual and performance art
By Ian Tee
This fall, Museum MACAN will unveil three new solo presentations by Indonesian Arahmaiani, Taiwanese-American Lee Mingwei and Japanese artist On Kawara. The programme builds on the success of 'First Sight' (2017), a series of live performance art events by leading Indonesian and regional artists such as FX Harsono, Melati Suryodarmo, Mella Jaarsma, Xu Zhen and Heman Chong, among others. The three new exhibitions highlight distinctive approaches to performance and conceptual practice, from social action to interactive participation.
'The Past Has Not Passed (Masa Lalu Belumlah Berlalu)' is a major survey by Arahmaiani, one of the pioneers of performance art in Southeast Asia. The exhibition features over 70 works from the 1980s until today, encompassing paintings, installations, and re-enactments of iconic performances such as 'Breaking Words' and 'Memory of Nature'. The artist is known for her social activism and the strong political underpinnings in her works, with a focus on issues of ecology, religion, consumerism and womanhood. The artist gained global prominence in the 1990s, with regular participation in key international events such as the Asia-Pacific triennal (1996), Gwangju Biennale (2002) and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).
This survey is an opportunity for the Indonesian public to appreciate the full breadth of Arahmaiani's practice. Works will be shown alongside personal documentation, notes and writings from the artist's studio, offering insight into her mind and processes.
In contrast, Lee Mingwei's oeuvre often takes on a calm contemplative tone. Titled 'Seven Stories', his solo presentation consists seven projects which revolve around concepts of community and exchange. Relying on the audience's active participation, works such as 'The Letter Writing Project' and 'The Mending Project' explore notions of trust and intimacy through the simple gestures of writing and patching old garments. Lee will also be working with local dancers and singers for 'Our Labyrinth' and 'Sonic Blossom', the latter recently presented at National Gallery Singapore in early 2018.
A highlight is the large-scale installation 'Guernica in Sand' based on the iconic painting 'Guernica' (1937) by Pablo Picasso. It also references the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of creating and destroying sand mandalas, a meditation on the transitory nature of material life. In this iteration, the installation will be made from locally sourced sand by a team of volunteers over three weeks before audiences are invited to walk on it during the performance. Thereafter, the artist and three performers will sweep the sand, and the project will be left in this condition till the end of the exhibition.
The reading of 'One Million Years' by On Kawara similarly involves participants, with male and female volunteers alternatively reading out dates from the artist's multi-volume collection. It was first presented at the Dia Centre for the Arts in New York (1993), and has been presented at various venues since including documenta 11 in Kassel, Germany (2002) and Trafalgar Square in London, UK (2004). Each time, speakers pick up where the last person left off as such embodying the passage of chronological time.
The three solo presentations are on view from 17 November 2018 to 10 March 2019. Museum MACAN will also launch two publications on Arahmaiani and Lee Mingwei, each including newly commissioned essays on the artist.