translate jellyfish

The Death of a Translator

By Wawan Kurniawan

He would not have swallowed the poison if yesterday’s incident hadn’t happened. A week earlier, he’d had a dream about a woman dressed in red with shoulder-length hair who came to him on a beach he did not recognize. Without the chance to get a clear look at her face, the woman had straight away hugged him from behind. So tightly that his bones felt as if they were going to break.

Only on hearing a cracking sound, along with the feeling of excruciating pain, did he then wake up.

He saw the clock on the wall still showing forty-two minutes past three. Only the sound of the clock ticking could be heard. He decided to close his eyes again and remember absolutely nothing of what had happened in his dream. But the pain in his back was still there so that he had to change his sleeping position several times.

He managed to fall asleep and woke again at ten in the morning. Usually he woke up in the afternoon after staying up late translating some of the manuscripts that were on his laptop. The pain in his back made him wake up early. Even though his sleep had been disturbed earlier in the day, he tried to look for possible causes of the pain.

“Maybe my sleeping position was the problem.”

“Hang on, just maybe it’s because I was sitting for too long working.”

“No, it seems to be because last night I didn’t drink enough water.”

Among the possibilities it didn’t enter his head for a moment about his dream.

While thinking about the pain, he suddenly remembered his promise to Eka, the publisher who wanted to print his translation. He had twice asked for an extension to work on improving the translation. And in six days’ time the deadline would expire. He also did not want to ask for an extension, but on the other hand he still felt like he wasn’t finished the translation.

While struggling against the pain in the back of his body, he walked slowly toward the bathroom holding onto the wall of the house. His steps were exactly like those of an old man who’s lost his walking stick, one hand on the wall, the other on his back massaging his own lower back.

“What’s happen? Why do you have to be sick like this, Lord?”

There wasn’t a soul in the house. In the past, he had kept a cat and it had been given the name March — the month of his birth, as well as several his favorite authors. Now, the distance to the bathroom felt like a long way for him.

He took a few steps back and dropped himself onto a brown sofa in area that was his office. He took a deep breath, returned to looking for the right position to ease the pain. Sitting in the chair made him feel better.

He then took a book that was on a small table beside his chair. At the table, there were several novels he was reading, and a thin notebook with a white cover without any pictures. There were also two fountain pens that he often used to take notes or make lists in his book. If not to make notes, the fountain pens often became a way of getting rid of anxiety by tapping the table with the bottom of the fountain pen.

The book he was reading still had around a hundred and twenty-three pages to go before it was finished. His felt better after sitting down and reading a few pages of the book. He leaned back and let his back be swallowed softness of the chair.

All of a sudden, he felt that he wanted to do a wee but the comfortable position made him feel like not getting up. To his right the window hadn’t been opened so the sun’s rays weren’t fully making it into the house. But he could feel a warm sensation around his thighs after he allowed him to urinate where he was. He closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the flow of his urine.

He only left his chair when he had finished the book.

***

After returning to read his translation, he lay down on the floor. That afternoon, after he had contacted one of his friends William who worked as a doctor at a health center, he had been asked not to sleep on a mattress. He didn’t want to go to bed yet, but the pain in his back was getting worse. The only way to feel better was by lying down. Before going to bed, he once again tried contacting his girlfriend Nadira.
Two days before, Nadira had left to return to Selayar Regency to organize their wedding which was scheduled to take place in the middle of the year. But Nadira just did not pick up the phone, or even respond to his WhatsApp chat message.

The day before Nadira had left, the weather in Selayar had turned extremely bad resulting in an interruption to the signal. Yesterday Nadira had still been able to message, she mentioned that the weather looked like it was getting worse and that communication might be interrupted.

From a media report from Selayar, he saw strong winds and continually pounding high waves. There was no news from Nadira, that night he began to have a strange sensation, a sense of fear about something. His pain was sometimes forgotten when he returned to looking for news of Nadira. While waiting for a miracle, he read the chat on WhatsApp from several days earlier.

Reading it made him smile, then laugh to himself, until, unwittingly, he fell asleep that night holding his cell phone.

And once again, the dream reoccurred, over five consecutive nights. In the end, everything that happened in the dream was clearly recorded in his memory. He was able to remember what happened but could not recognize who the woman was or where the beach was where they were.

That night too, before going to bed he again tried to contact Nadira, to tell her about his dream and the worry that he had been holding back for several days. But again, a bad feeling pressing in on his chest. Something might have happened. The news reporting about Selayar still had no new reports following the extreme bad weather of the last few days.

The pain in his back then spread toward one place, his tailbone. That same night, he could no longer sit and allowed himself to lie down on the floor. He looked at the ceiling of his room, noticing the lights that was appeared glowing. The lights in the room then went out, instantly his body became completely paralyzed.

A few moments later, the lights came back on and again he saw the figure of a long-haired woman dressed in red who had appeared in his dreams. The difference was, this time he could see her face, and the woman was Nadira.

His chest felt tight, not because he was scared, but rather a bad feeling he had had the whole time seemed to be coming true.

Something had happened to Nadira. The figure disappeared quickly, in just the blink of an eye. Right then he thought his body was normal again and he stood up resisting the pain in his tailbone.

His laptop was still open, the text of his translation was still not complete. Still there was no news of Nadira. His pain was becoming more and more unbearable. Standing up while resisting the pain, he grimaced in pain. He felt as if his life was in chaos. A voice in his head asked him to go straight into the kitchen. A bottle of insecticide was stored behind the back of the kitchen door.

The figure he had just seen was indeed possibly his girlfriend Nadira. Death has met her before him. He was not able to translate events as well as he translated the manuscript that was on his laptop.

He took stumbling steps towards the bottle of poison. Now as he started to draw near it was me who then hugged him from behind until everything that was in him was crushed, while I had embraced Nadira before him in the high pounding waves.

Why had he not translated me first?


The Death of a Translator (Kematian Seorang Penerjemah) was published in Kompas Daily, 24 March 201.

Wawan Kurniawan, writes poetry, short stories, essays, novels and translations. Joined the Kompas Daily short story writing class (2015), published a book of poetry entitled Persinggahan Perangai Sepi (2013) and Sajak Penghuni Surga (2017). One of his novels entitled Seratus Tahun Kebisuan (A Hundred Years of Silence) is a Unnes International Novel Writing Contest 2017 Novel of Choice. Check out https://www.instagram.com/wawankurn/

Nyoman Sujana Kenyem, born in Ubud, Bali, 9 September 1972, Nyoman studied at STSI Denpasar (1992-1998). His solo exhibitions include, A Place Behind The House at  Komaneka Gallery Ubud, Bali (2016), Silence of Nature, at Lovina, Bali (2015), and his solo exhibition at G13 Gallery, Kelana Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia (2013). See https://www.instagram.com/artkenyem/

Kematian Seorang Penerjemah ilustrasi Nyoman Sujana Kenyem/Kompas

The Death of a Translator illustration by Nyoman Sujana Kenyem/Kompas Daily

 

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Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World Exhibition 1987

The Art of Liberation & The Liberation of Art

Manifesto of the New Art Movement 1987

1987 Manifesto of the New Art Movement

THE ART OF LIBERATION
THE LIBERATION OF ART

The art of liberation is expression based on an awareness of the need for the liberation of the definition of art. The forms taken by this expression prioritizes declaration and the spirit of exploration based on an aesthetic of liberation.

The Art of Liberation The Liberation of Art

The Art of Liberation, The Liberation of Art

The liberation of art is the initiative to change the definition of art. The principle idea of this awareness is that art is an expression of plurality which is based on a variety of frames of references. The definition of art currently recognized and acknowledged is shackled to the definition of art as only painting, sculpture or graphic design is art as bound to the frame of reference of “High Art”.

(I) Observing:

The definition of art as encompassing expression in only three fields, namely painting, sculpture and graphic design, is devoid of a conceptual framework.

(II) Considering:

The definition of the Indonesian term seni rupa is based on a direct translation of the term “fine arts,” descending from a Latin definition from the Renaissance of la belle arti del disegno.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Sticker Car

1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Sticker Car (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

(III) Concluding:

It is not fully understood that this definition of art is rooted in the principles of artes liberales (Liberal Arts) from the frame of reference of “High Art” elaborated during the Renaissance in the sixteenth century, an outlook that believes in the existence of only one (high) culture and the one type of art which it has produced.

(IV) Declaring:

That art is an expression of plurality. That culture has a variety of frames of reference.

(V) Declaring:

The current definition of art is the result of adaptation devoid of conceptual thinking, lacking consideration of the acculturation of aesthetics.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Documentation

1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Documentation (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

This formulation of the definition of art is trapped. The definition of art with a “High Art” frame of reference has become completely impoverished and specific. This formulation does not see the surrounding reality where a variety of expressions of art based on other frames of reference are found.

Throughout the history of Indonesian art, this groundless and contorted definition has held sway. On the other hand, art grounded in ethnic cultures, popular art from everyday life, crafts and design (art with other frames of reference outside the old definition) stand as phenomena which never gets any attention.

This is an ironic curiosity.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Supermarket

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987 Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World Supermarket (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

(VI) Paying Attention To:

The only expression of art which is in accord with that definition of art is the only one used by Indonesian Modern Art, part of World Modern Art (derived from artes liberales) in its connection to the principle that “art is universal”.

Due to the inaccurate formulation of its definition, Indonesian Modern Art is also trapped in a narrow circle. Once again there has been adaptation without conceptual thought or aesthetic consideration. Artists and critics of Indonesian Modern Art have in truth become blind and regard modern art – painting, sculpture and graphic design – as the one and only expression of art. Outside this, art does not exist. This attitude has become popular and is seen in the expression: “… is not painting”.

This is not fanaticism for a particular idea, rather a strongly held attitude which is baseless. The reality is truly: confusion. The absence of critical attention to this contorted definition is a sign of this confusion. In fact, there is no awareness of any definition at all. The activities of modern art itself proceed in a fragmented way with painting as the most popular of these.

(VII) Declaring:

Modern Indonesian Artists have made an idiomatic error, using the language of Modern Art but without an aesthetic understanding. They base their artistic activity entirely on incomplete fragments of the history of Modern Art, a belief in the history of art and only one understanding of aesthetics.

Modern Indonesian artists have become consumerist. They regard a variety of concepts of style within these fragments of the History of Modern Art as a source which has to be made sacred and embraced unconditionally. A contorted imitation of lifestyle also happens. A romantic lifestyle has turned into epigonic eccentricity. Internally exploratory individualism has been replaced by megalomaniac egotism.

Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World Exhibition 1987

Project 1 Supermarket Fantasy World, 1987 Exhibition

This advanced erroneous adaptation has led critics and modern artists into a preoccupation with matching expressions of modern art with a “dictionary” of art history. Modern artists truly do not practice a tradition of exploration.

(VIII) Declaring:

Thinking about art in Indonesia is headed for bankruptcy.

Indonesian Modern Art, the only art consistent with the definition, is experiencing a deep stagnation. It is fixed on the early styles of Modern Art. It has stopped exploring, is incapable of reflecting inwardly in search of the basis for other developments.

Art based on other frames of reference has been expunged from thinking about art. The contorted definition of art has relegated this to obscurity. Art with a background in ethnic cultures has without exception been framed as belonging to the past. Graphic design as the product of technological and industrial progress is thought of as crude art regarded only for its surface beauty. Popular art which deals with everyday life is regarded as the product of mass culture and as devoid of value.

New Art Movement Exhibition 1987, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World "No 1 in America"

1987 New Art Movement Exhibition, Project 1: Supermarket Fantasy World “No 1 in America/Here” (http://archive.ivaa-online.org/events/detail/14)

(IX) Proclaiming:

What is needed is the liberation of art. A framework of expression that prioritizes the dismantling of a misguided tradition of art. A framework of expression that is rational and which prioritizes expression based on an aesthetics of liberation.

(X) Proclaiming:

What is needed is a redefinition of art, the liberation of art from the confines of a definition rooted in artes liberales, to search for a new definition capable of embracing every expression of art.

(XI) Proclaiming:

What is needed is the liberation of our thought world from a completely single perspective believing in only one frame of reference which begets one art, only one global community in a cultural form that is complete and integrated.

Jakarta, May 2 1987


(*) 1987 Manifesto of the New Art Movement, based in part on the work of the Digital Archive of Contemporary Indonesian Art and also available in the original at Manifesto Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru 1987. It represents the manifesto of the New Art Movement used for the Project 1: Fantasy World Supermarket (Pasaraya Dunia Fantasi: Proyek 1) exhibition in 1987.

Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art.

Garuda by Kanva Abas

Black December 1974

One Hundred Thousand for Rubbish Art: A Review of Menanam Padi di Langit [Planting Rice in the Sky] by Puthut EA. Blog post by Wahyudin, January 2017

9

[…] consider the description of Bambang Bujono (Tempo, 11 January 1975): “Neither in the invitation to painters to participate in the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition nor in the guidelines for the judging panel of the exhibition can you find a section normally found in guidelines for judging art exhibitions stating that the decision of the judges can not be disputed.

For this reason maybe, a dispute arose that took the form of the “1974 Black December Declaration” and the delivery of a condolence funeral wreath on behalf of the community to the Jakarta Arts Council for the “Death of Indonesian Painting”. This happened on the last night of 1974 which was the closing night of the 1974 Art Festival at the Jakarta Arts Center (Taman Ismail Marzuki or TIM). About the condolence wreath, it wasn’t effective anyway because the security guards at TIM were the ones who “accepted” the wreath and they then stored it and locked it away in the TIM Dance Studio.”

 

Compare this to the description of Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 36-37). “On 31 December 1974 during the Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition which was held biennially at TIM an incident occurred which marked the start of the New Art Movement. There was a protest against the judges who had awarded prizes to a number of paintings in the form of a condolence funeral wreath emblazoned with the words, “With condolences for the death of our painting”.

The condolence wreath was delivered on the last day of the exhibition when the prizes were given to the winners of the competition that traditionally accompanied the Biennial. This was intended to publicize the anger of the students at the judges who in their view only valued what they called “decorative and consumerist” painting. The protesters called themselves the “Black December” movement and it was also supported by students from the Indonesian Academy of Visual Arts (ASRI).”

Look at this photograph:

Condolence Furneral Wreath

Condolence Funeral Wreath – “With Condolences for the Death of Our Painting” (Tempo, 11 January 1975)

[…] The first paragraph on page 69 says, “Apart from the wreath, the protesters also wrote a manifesto, many names signed it, especially from Bandung, Jakarta and of course the five people from Yogya.”

The question is, who were the “five people from Yogya”? It is very surprising that even with his overactive imagination, the writer of this book is unable to answer this question.

A short explanation on page 67 of the book makes it possible to speculate about the “five people from Yogya”. But the page only mentions four people, Bonyong, Harsono, Hardi and Nanik Mirna. So who is the person not mentioned? Because the answer is not provided in the book, we have to consider the historical facts about the Group of Five Young Yogya Painters.

As I mentioned earlier, according to Harsono (2013), the Group of Five Young Yogya Painters which formed in Yogyakarta in 1973 under the “guidance” of Fadjar Sidik (painter, STSRI “ASRI” lecturer, and member of the judging panel for the “Good Paintings” exhibition) was composed of five students from STSRI “ASRI” Yogyakarta, namely, Bonyong Munni Ardhi, FX Harsono, Hardi, Nanik Mirna and Siti Adiyati. (Also see Hendro Wiyanto, “FX Harsono dan Perkembangan Karyanya (1972-2009) [FX Harson and the Development of His Work (1972-2009)]” in Re: Petesi/Posisi FX Harsono [Re: Petition/Position of FX Harsono], (2010: 41-187)*; Dermawan T (2013) and Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 33-34)).

At the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition or Jakarta Biennial I, they were invited to participate. Apart from them, five other STSRI “ASRI” students were listed in the catalog who were also invited, namely, Nyoman Gunarsa, Ris Purwana, Suatmaji, Sudarisman and Subroto SM.

Given these historical facts, I hope no reader is tempted to speculate and answer that what was meant by the writer of this book by the “five people from Yogya” is Bonyong, Harsono, Hardi, Nanik Mirna and Siti Adiyati, because such speculation would take one  down the road of historical liars and the anti-“Jas merah” brigade.

How could it be otherwise because you need to know that, although invited to participate in the 1974 Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition, there were only four members of the Group of Five Young Yogya Painters who signed the “Black December” manifesto, namely, Bonyong, Hardi, Harsono, and Adiyati. (See Harsono (2013); Dermawan T. (2013); Wiyanto (2010: 70) and Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 36-38)). The one person who did not sign the Declaration, of course you can guess, was Nanik Mirna. This is why Nanik did not receive the academic sanction of being “suspended without time limit” from STSRI “ASRI” as was the case with Bonyong, Hardi, Harsono, Adiyati and Ris Purwana. (See “Skors di ASRI”, Tempo, 15 February 1975; Dermawan T. (tt.: 135); Dermawan T. (2013); Miklouho-Maklai (1998: 38) and Dermawan T. (1979: 2)).”

Black December Statement Signatories 31 December 1974

Black December Declaration Signatories 31 December 1974

Black December Declaration 1974

Black December Declaration 1974

Black December 1974 Declaration

Recalling that over the past few years artistic and cultural activities have been carried on without a clear cultural strategy, we have come to the conclusion that art and culture entrepreneurs do not display a shred of evidence of the slightest understanding of the most fundamental problems of our culture. This is an indication that for some time the development of art and culture has been destroyed by a spiritual erosion.

For this reason we feel the need in this black December of 1974 to declare our opinion regarding the symptoms obvious in the works of Indonesian painting today.

1. That although the diversity of Indonesian painting constitutes an undeniable fact, nevertheless this diversity does not in itself represent a positive development.

2. That for development that ensures the continuation of our culture, painters have a high calling to provide spiritual direction which is based on humanitarian values and which is oriented around the reality of social life and which is oriented towards the realities of social, cultural, political and economic life.

3. That creativity is the essential nature of painters who employ whatever means to achieve new perspectives for Indonesian painting.

4. That therefore the identity of Indonesian painting in itself has a clear position.

5. That what has hindered the development of Indonesian painting to date is worn out concepts that continue to be professed by the establishment, art and culture entrepreneurs and established artists.

In the interest of saving our painting, now is the right time for us to award an honor on that establishment, the honor of being a retired veteran of the culture.

Indonesia, 31 December 1974

Signed by:
Muryotohartoyo, Juzwar, Harsono, B. Munni Ardhi, M. Sulebar, Ris Purwana, Daryono, Adiyati, D. A. Peransi, Baharudin Marasutan, Ikranegara, Adri Darmadji, Hardi, Abdul Hadi W


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Source: Seratus Ribu untuk Sampah Seni Rupa.

Images of the Declaration come from Desember Hitam, GSRB Dan Kontemporer.

Image of Garuda by Kanva Abas from Fase Perkembangan Sejarah Senirupa Indonesia Bagian 2.

The Grand Indonesian Painting Exhibition 1974 at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art.   The exhibition catalog.

Gerakan Seni Rupa Baru Exhibition 1987 at the Digital Archive of Indonesian Contemporary Art .

* Rath, Amanda Katherine.  Re: petisi/posisi : F.X. Harsono / Amanda Katherine Rath … [et al.]  Langgeng Art Foundation Magelang  2010

I Want You

bambang

I leave to go home. I will return again though only in body. The struggle to eradicate corruption must not stop.

Bambang Widjojanto, Deputy Chairman of the Indonesian Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), 2015


Source: Emerson, @emerson_yuntho