Malcolm Smith

Copyright 2007-2012
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Mohon perhatian… Your attention please…

Global Spring, a solo exhibition by Vendy Methodos at Krack Studio, Yogyakarta.
15 February – 8 March, 2017

Essay by Malcolm Smith
more pics here

Mohon perhatian… Your attention please…

In Yogyakarta there are loudspeakers everywhere. There is the call to prayer, five times a day from the ubiquitous mosques. But there are also loudspeakers on schools, community centers, sports fields, supermarkets, airports, on the roofs of trucks and even attached to food-carts. They are used to broadcast community news, comment on social and religious matters, share sporting results, deliver warnings, promote sales, announce arrivals and departures, give instructions, blast music and other things. It’s quite a noisy city.

When you think about it, social media is rather like Yogyakarta. When we post, we tend do it through a loudspeaker, competing to be heard above our friends’ proclamations, gripes, brags and tirades. In both Yogyakarta and social media, there’s no law that dictates who has the authority to make an announcement or who doesn’t. Inevitably, the one who gets heard is the one who speaks loudest, most controversially, most aggressively, most divisively and who has the most conviction that what they have to say is the only thing worth hearing. It is to these people that Methodos’ work is addressed; those who think that only their opinions matter, and that everyone else must listen.

“Embrace our Holy Brainwash!!”

The titles of his works are written in English, but not really as native English-speakers know it. Methodos thinks in Javanese, writes in bahasa Indonesia, and then Google translates into English. I could edit them and correct them for you, but I don’t think they need to be fixed. I like their ambivalence. Rather than force their meaning on us, they compel us to seek the meaning in them.

This is a point that people with loudspeakers seem to miss. Life’s not about right or wrong, good or evil, black or white; its about looking for the meaning in what someone else has to say and not dismissing them because their English is not like ours, or their beliefs are different to ours, or because they haven’t the same education, opportunities or experiences that we’ve had. It’s about putting down the loudspeaker and listening, for a change.

“Different Thought and Different Perspective is Lame Faith!!”

As much as Methodos’ criticism applies to groups like the FPI or HTI in Indonesia, or Wahabists in the Middle East, or Neo-Nazis in Europe, or Trump voters in America, he isn’t just talking about religious fundamentalists. He is also talking to us liberals, artists, activists and intellectuals who dismiss and deride other people’s beliefs and opinions because they don’t match ours. As often as religious people claim to be spiritually superior, liberals claim to be intellectually superior.

“Anxiety is our Faithful Companion!!”

We are living in interesting times. Many of us see dark clouds gathering. We are nervous about what lies ahead and try to defend ourselves from it. We think the solution lies with Us and we blame Them for what’s going wrong. The more we do this the more our fear of Them grows; fear that turns us into fundamentalists of one stripe or another. But shouting at someone through a loudspeaker just gives them license to shout back. Listening to others encourages others to listen to us. Laughing at ourselves encourages others to laugh at themselves. When we can laugh at ourselves we don’t have so much to lose.

Vendy Methodos was born in 1982 and has always lived in Yogya. He was schooled as an artist on the blank walls and abandoned buildings of the city, producing street art that is distinctive for characters who are mutated and deranged but nonetheless optimistic for a better future.

Malcolm Smith is an Australian artist based in Yogyakarta. He is one of the founders of Krack! a contemporary print studio that focuses on critical issues in the South East Asian region.