Banten through the Art of “Eyewitnesses”

All you gracious guys and gals reading this post, please, don’t you boo me, for this was the first time I ever paid a visit to this museum, ever since it was inaugurated by Mr. Rano Karno, the Governor of Banten, on 29 October 2015. Anyways, have you?

The State Museum of Banten Province, as you might have been aware, was formerly a governor’s office. Known as a cultural heritage site, the building used to function as a resident office, or Karesidenan Banten, during the Dutch East Indies era. Following the completion of the new governor’s office construction, it was then converted to be a museum: a Bantenese society’s longtime wish to have their own primary place for experiencing art, culture, history, and science.

“Saksi Mata”, Banten Fine Arts Grand Exhibition 2016. Yep, that was the booster of me getting my skinny, cool ass over. As I told you earlier that this was my first-ever visit, I reckoned this had to be one captivating event. It turned out to be funny at first.

When I first stepped across the main gate, the guards seemed to colour me stunned, stupefied, anesthetised, lobotomised—it isn’t unnatural, though. Who wouldn’t? I taintlessly asked one of them, “which one is the museum?”, while I should’ve not for the building complex was far from intricate. The guy questioned where I came from and in less then a second I thought I had never felt really bad about myself. I felt estranged, exiled, secluded, alienated. I mean it’s my dang home? I took note of that.

I was pretty fascinated there were millennial specimens hung around. Not a massive number, but quite many. Others were some parents bringing their kids together. After signing the guest book and entering through the doorway—ah, it was nice—I overheard a remark from one of the girls in headscarf around me, whom I suspected a college student, roughly as follows: “Hey, quit snapping. Write down a thing or two about the paintings; it’s the assignment given.” Ah, so. Why the museum was being crowded by them fine young people had been explained.

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Doesn’t look crowded to you? The others were busy in another corner observing or taking pictures next to the artworks (thank God there were no selfie sticks!), having a casual talk with the artists, or I couldn’t seem to get a better image.

What caught my eyes first was the foreword from the exhibition curator, Firman Lie. The title “Saksi Mata”, or “Eyewitnesses”, was given to place Bantenese artists as the beholders, in a way to representing the existential statement within their visual works. As the eyewitnesses, the artists identified a narrative development that determined the various formulations of fine arts identity, definition, and social category, as a part of Bantenese society. I myself could see a chain of Banten’s diverse visages throughout my sighting. A picturesque Banten with its natives and local wisdom, a rapidly-growing Banten coupled with the consequent flaws here and there, a tyrannical Banten that has long been known to shape sufferings…

Right, before we start, please be aware that any perceptivities written are of my own senses. The artists could mean otherwise, and you might perceive otherwise. Thank you, here’s your coffee.

It was a series of naturalistic, realistic, and romantic paintings that gave me the warm welcome. “Cibeo” by Sutaryat, “Anyer” by Ade Paker, “Parukuyan Tatar Sunda” by Nurzad were among them, giving me the peaceful vibes of a rural life. There was also this one that I liked, “Menyaksikan Perubahan” by S. Bahri: a herd of cows eating grass with a background of construction put up by two men who appeared to be farmers.

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“Cibeo” by Sutaryat. One of Inner Baduy villages, located in Lebak.

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“Menyaksikan Perubahan” by S. Bahri. The construction laborers once got to plow our rice fields.

I went to the next chamber on the right just to come across a large painting called “Dinasti Kekuasaan” by Ali Bone. It was a depiction of a ruling authority dressing up in Arabian clothes having a grand ball around those who happened to be tortured slaves. I could spot about two or three horrific monsters, some of them were in armor and tie. A number of flying cars and planes driven by modern-looking men spread in the sky, while the building beneath was…the Great Mosque of Banten. Well, to me it was a seem-unending-arbitrariness summed up perfectly in one painting.

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“Dinasti Kekuasaan” by Ali Bone. Arbitrariness, now and then.

Now we shall proceed to the next core, which talked about the psychology within people of Banten. The painting called “Matahari Terbit” by  U. Sanoesi Didjaja sent me chills by depicting an old man pushing a bicycle that carried a bunch of coconuts—the artist was there talking with a group of college students, and oh, the old man in the painting looked exactly like him. Meanwhile, the sculpture of a man with his legs chained titled “Suluk Banten” by Herman Kuncung represented one’s burdensome spiritual journey. A wooden-framed photograph named “Rintih Kejenuhan” by Ahmad Jazili and a painting called “Terkekang” by Antoni Budi Mulia shared a similar idea about one’s surfeit.

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“Rintih Kejenuhan” by Ahmad Jazili. One is able get rid of surfeit by letting go of control. At least that’s what I absorbed.

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“Terkekang” by Antoni Budi Mulia. Another overhearing, this time from a boy: “Stay back, he might eat you.” Nah, don’t be silly.

Now let’s go through some satirical works. “Kaum Penyiyir” by Iman Tole quite possibly would hit so many of you right in the feels; I mean is there anyone who doesn’t find social media the best platform to scoff at someone…yet? Or maybe “Lelakon (Dinasti Politik)” by Yudi Noviansyah could do it justice way better with its scoldings towards the local election, money politics, and government employees, or as he mentioned it: Pegawai Negeri Setan. “Di Ujung Cula” by Tubagus Patoni criticising the forest loss was so gorgeous, it could be my favourite, if only…

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“Kaum Penyinyir” by Iman Tole. No words in particular.

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“Lelakon (Dinasti Politik)” by Yudi Noviansyah. It was the only artwork sold so far. Apologies for the blurry image.

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“Di Ujung Cula” by Tubagus Patoni. I hate to say it but this lovely painting was totally ruined. I couldn’t help laughing at the paper that read: “Yang sangat menyedihkan bagi pohon adalah ketika dia tahu bahwa gagang kampak terbuat dari kayu.”

Guys and gals, there were two paintings I found having certain positive energy. The rest was completely amazing but these two were exceptional. The first painting was “Satu Arah” by A. Inayat—out of the positivity I felt in such a way I couldn’t explain, I hadn’t actually digested the message the artist was trying to say. The other one was “Penjaga Tanah Merdeka” by Sutarno: a man of Baduy tribe wearing a gas mask, equipped with two cleavers was seen standing in front of what seemed to be refineries, or whatever they were called.

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“Satu Arah” by A. Inayat. The siblings, to me, are the epitome of hope. A child is the hope anyone can never take.

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“Penjaga Tanah Merdeka” by Sutarno. This was powerful in so many levels.

For your very much information, this Banten Fine Arts Grand Exhibition 2016 will close on 4 December. I didn’t take images of all the artworks displayed, and I assume you wouldn’t want to remain sitting for another minute to read. So, if you haven’t, why don’t you come to the museum yourself, to witness Banten? I promise it will cost you no efforts: it’s right in the downtown, the environment is quite friendly with shady trees and nice guards, and you can happily get in with a zero-rupiah price. More importantly, it’s art you’re going to see.

“Where are you from?” asked one of the guards again when I was heading to the main gate to leave.

I’ll come back to you with an answer, Sir, I really will. I just don’t know when. Your question was of much philosophical significance to my ears, and I think I need to turn to Sartre. [*]

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