Rahasia Jalan Tikus
by Indrani Ashe (USA)
23.10 - 11.11 2010
Rahasia Jalan Tikus
Rahasia Jalan Tikus is a celebration of the community lifestyle found in the neighborhoods where the streets are so tiny and wild they don’t have any names. These streets grow in Indonesian cities like the roots of weeds, without organization, or rather in an organic and uncontrolled way. The beautiful life found in these streets becomes a secret because no outsider could enter these labyrinthine paths confident that they would find their way out easily. Though I myself live in the Jalan Tikus I wouldn’t be able to navigate a Jalan Tikus unfamiliar to me. These streets are wild, unrecorded by maps, only illuminated by those rich in local knowledge. The beauty found in these neighborhoods is also a secret because in Indonesian society they do not carry any status or prestige. Certainly most foreigners entering Indonesia never get the opportunity to look at Jalan Tikus, they are residential areas, not tourist sites. As far as residential areas they are not coveted real estate… they are the province of the urban lower to middle class. But with this installation I seek to convince, there is something beautiful, something moving, something incredible in the Jalan Tikus.
Most crisply carried in video, as we enter the maze at every turn we meet a new moment, a moment where we sense and understand the life of another individual or family . If there is census of a neighborhood in Indonesia, they write down how many jiwa there are, not how many people. The beauty of the Jalan Tikus is that crowded between potted plants and bird cages, you can feel the energy of so many souls living close together. In the consumerist lifestyle popularized through globalization we live with possessions as our friends. We mostly communicate via computer and text message because we have to spend most of our time alone making money, but face to face the energy is more real. In reality we need and benefit from the presence of others.
Moment to moment in the Jalan Tikus we experience the presence of others, at each corner a new story unfolds. From above you can see a Jalan Tikus as one complex world, hundreds of red tile roofs amazingly nestled together. As you become enfolded in the interior you meet a new face and a new situation at every turn. The installation of coconut shells is an illustration of worlds within a world. The coconut shells are clumped together as one structure, but each shell holds a new story told by a series of objects and pictures. The sculptures within the coconut shells are inspired by the small shops and the children of the Jalan Tikus. The small shops in the Jalan Tikus carry the products and graphic design of multiple eras and places, evidence of a culture fluctuating within time and space. The children filling the streets of the Jalan Tikus have an infinitely complex field for creative play and exploration offered by the diversity of the objects and the people they meet.
Children are probably the most valued element of these narrow paths. They often color the daily activity of this environment. An example is the massive flying of kites in dry seasons in Bandung. People of many ages are visible flying kites on roof tops and the corpses of kites fill the trees and electric lines. In the installation kites are reinterpreted as a symbol of the freedom celebrated collaboratively in every Gang on August 17. They also carry the language that saturates the air of the Jalan Tikus. Idioms repeated again and again in the community begin to hold their own weight and tell their own story about the nature of these neighborhoods.
The final element of the installation is laundry. Laundry lines crowding the streets and rooftops of the gang are fascinating because they create unique sculptural configurations in everyday life and because they are kinetic, often moving with the wind. Conceptually they are a symbol of the close proximity at which people live together in the Jalan Tikus. There is a saying in English, don’t wash your dirty laundry in public, but it’s not unusual within the gang. Laundry is an object that is inscribed with an individual’s personal experiences and culture, something which we are constantly witnessing in the Jalan Tikus.
The objects and video in this installation are the result of two years of research living in Sekeloa, Bandung and 4 months of residency at Kersan Art Studio in Yogyakarta. I was first attracted to the Jalan Tikus while living in Dharma Husada complex in Surabaya. I stumbled upon a small road, filled with bird cages and potted plants, sensed a beautiful energy, and took a walk. Moving to Sekeloa I knew I might do a project about the area but I had no idea what form it would take. Overtime I noticed the gang barong xai practice audible inside my house every Saturday, children playing in the small courtyard in front of my house, the massive flying of kites, and old men playing chess. I took walks in Sekeloa until I didn’t get lost any more, and I became familiar with all the overlooks and small shops. Certain oft repeated phrases started to catch on in my consciousness, and I asked what does that mean? Why do they keep saying that? These experiences were the ingredients of my experimentation and exploration. The residency at Kersan Art Studio helped my ideas grow and develop quickly to transform the gallery space. I found many differences in the neighborhood activity of Yogya and Bandung, but I hope that this does not confuse the focus of the exhibition; The similarities are more important. The installation Rahasia Jalan Tikus could not claim to be a documentation of life in the Jalan Tikus. Certainly life itself is too complex to document faithfully in an installation. The artist’s intention is to create a heightened reality so that the audience can have a greater appreciation for Jalan Tikus in the future.