Iwan Wojono is an acclaimed Indonesian performance artist and political activist, who is currently artist-in-residence at the Judith Wright Centre, Brisbane. Ten Failed Doomsday Prophecies… and the End of the World is a collaboration between Iwan Wijono and Australian artists Eloise Maree (performer), Daniel Huey (sound designer), and Lucie McIntosh (video designer). The exhibition, which is on display from 7 – 23 November, explores themes of science fiction, world politics, capitalism, destruction, sustainability and community. Iwan will be conducting several performance workshops as part of his residency. We caught up with Iwan after the exciting weekend launch of the exhibition project.
PERIL: Can you talk a bit about how you first started to make your political activist performance work?
IWAN: I was student activist under Soeharto regime, as visual art student I realised body action on street was the best activism I could do. I was invited to various political demonstrations where a lot of the demonstrators did political speeches, people get bored with speech, for good strategy and composition of demonstration, showing the body action art or performance art were the right context at that moment. Street action art supposed to be clear message, easy to understand, brave, and the performer must be ready to arrested by police or military, etc.
I was visual art student and international law student, I studied in 2 universities at same time, I didn’t plan to be performance artist, but since I was student activist got a lot of invitations to participate in various art festivals, so day by day keeping to be performer, even in early time to participate in international event confused me, because not easy to adjust from street performer to international event where the program is indoors with limited time and possibilities.
PERIL: Can you discuss the importance of the body as artistic medium in your work?
IWAN: Body is: a creator, a medium, a life. So the artist can use his/her life as art medium, as art work, by this context can develop so many unpredictable art works and cultural movement possibilities. In conventional art media are very limited possibilities, confined to the aesthetic of work – in dance as beauty of movement, in music in the melody, in painting as visual, etc. In New Body Consciousness and my practice there are no confinements as it extends to daily life and culture.
The conventional art work is interdependent with the stage, etc, in action art can be anywhere anytime so far it is clear that it is art work. Even I do painting also but in new manner, I worked with farmers, produce painting based on their problem, sell painting, use money to work and support their problem, like art circle. Also I work with a collective community – Performance Klub.
PERIL: Ten Failed Doomsday Prophecies… and the End of the World is a collaboration between yourself and three Australian artists. How did this collaboration come about and what will visitors expect to see at the Judith Wright Centre?
IWAN: We are working in response to the Mayan calendar that 22 Dec 2012 is the end of the world, also warning that if human civilization does not pay attention to the public prophecies, the world will end soon. I respect the doomsday mythologies, etc. but in reality I believe nature will always exist and recycle itself even if humans and animals are destroyed. By the program in Judith Wright Centre, doomsday prophecies are being used as a chance to give warning to people; there are so many signs about the potential destruction in the world: foods and energies getting less and human population increasing so fast, less land for food production and chemical foods, broken environments and weather systems, natural resource mining effected to various disasters, new diseases, chaotic business systems and global political systems going into crisis, expensive education and health. Those are so many different things getting worse day by day, going into the pyramid of destruction, just we don’t know when and what’s gonna be those worse things.
By the program in Judith Wrights Centre as warning, remind to better life in the past and better life choices in the future. The collaboration with different mediums and artists is creating work with many layers – cultural works, in different layer of appreciations. We are performing in the Shopfront four different doomsday prophecy warnings on 9, 12, 13, and 22 November from 4:30-5pm for the public to watch, and a final Doomsday party on 23 November from 6-7pm.
PERIL: During the exhibition, you will be holding workshops under the title of New Body Consciousness. What will you be sharing with participants during these workshops, and what activities will they be doing?
IWAN: New Body Consciousness, as I mentioned above, artist as creator, as art medium, as real life, artist can use the life as art work also, can explore any art ideas in various possibilities, it is not interdependent on the stage, canvas, space, gallery. Also the aesthetics are not in beauty of art things but in the mobile context of the work. The artist does not bring same art work to any various spaces in the world, but the artist creates new context in any kind of spaces in the world, art space, social space, online space, any new context. The art work can be mobile, modify the context in new social space, one work can be a problem in one place but can be a “gold” in other place. In the New Body Consciousness, the body (artist, creation, medium and life) can explore so many things, depend the artist ready or not to execute the ideas, to adjust or to break the social context.
PERIL: What are you working on next?
IWAN: There are so many things in my plans. I’m continuing to work with farmers and environment organizations to establish the urban farming and food sovereignty. The exhibition I’m planning will use conventional art mediums like painting, photography, sculpture, graphic art, etc. I’m working to produce some kind of propaganda art with many artists, to support and to make the farming culture to be popular because most of the farmers are old, and the younger generation isn’t interested in farming, so the farming culture is disappearing. Also on 31 December I’ll do photo performance of The Greenmen, will invite a lot of volunteers to be greenmen holding plantations, farming tools, etc. to stand along the road for taking a photo as an art work. In general I will continue to support any community to be independent, not dependent on an unstable global system.
For more information about the collaborative exhibition project and performance workshops, visit the Judith Wright Centre.