Heri Dono: Voyage trokomod, Indonesia Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2015

The Indonesia pavilion is themed “Trokomod”. conveys the expectations of all historically dominated cultures to be granted equal room and recognition. Myths, legends and folk tales infuseDono’s imagination. Recently he joked:“I am Semar, considered a clown, but inmy former life I was a dinosaurus.”

Heri Dono, artist Indonesia, discuss with Asmudjo Irianto in order to prepare his work “Trokomod” in Bandung, Indonesia, Heri Dono is an artist who will represent Indonesia National Pavilion at the 56th International Exhibition of Art – All World Futures, the Biennale Arte 2015.

In his 1996 exhibition “Blooming in Arms” at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, Heri Dono presented a series of paintings featuring prosthetic-legged, gun-wielding figures—man-tree hybrids. The work was a commentary on the environmental policies of the authoritarian Indonesian president Suharto, who encouraged citizens to plant trees while allowing international corporations to ravage the nation’s jungles for profit. This mix of local context and multinational trends is typical of Dono’s subject matter. He draws heavily on Javanese culture—music, dance, literature, and especially wayang shadow puppetry—blending fantastical iconography and humor with sociopolitical critique. The New York Times has written that Dono is “arguably the first contemporary Indonesian artist of his generation to break into the global art scene.”

Dono’s exhibition will include a site-specific, voyage-themed work that he developed together with local architects and artisans from Bandung, West Java, and Yogyakarta. The show’s centerpiece—titled Trokomod (2015), a conflation of the Greek Trojan Horse and an Indonesian Komodo dragon—is a large (7.5 x 3 x 3.5 meters) boat in the shape of Indonesia’s native reptile, its tarnished metal skin a commentary on colonial gold mining. Viewers will be able to enter the dragon to look through periscopes at Western artifacts, like a statue of a man in a white, curly horse-hair wig—shifting the traditional Eastern-facing direction of the exoticizing gaze.

The Komodo dragon
The Komodo dragon, a large species of lizard found in Indonesia. Called “Trokomod”, this 4 meter tall and 7.5 meter long amphibious vessel was created by Heri Dono to explore the place of his country in a globalized world.

Visitors can enter the Trokomod, play with a submarine-like periscope and look through telescopes that reveal mysterious scenes of European culture: faces of people wearing eighteenth-century curly wigs, a prosthetic leg used in the First World War, a copy of Karl Marx’s Capital, etc. They are presented as exotic pieces in an ethnographic museum. Which makes for an amusing reversal of the roles as it is usually Western museums that collect and interpret ‘exotic’ artefacts found in distant countries.

Dono’s critical vision of the Western world doesn’t end there. His installation also denounces Western hegemony of the global contemporary art, the way it dictates its rules, codes and important protagonists.

His creatures are made out of scrap metal collected in the junkyards of Bandung and Yogyakarta, they were crafted in collaboration with architects and local artisans from Indonesia.

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Spirit Boat
Angel has become one of inspiration for Heri Dono about freedom. An angel can fly anywhere and anytime, he said. Angel became the metaphor to criticize the state or against repression, political, and the dominance of anything in the art world.

The silver flying vessels are angels derived from stories when he was a kid had nothing to do with religion, rather he was inspired by Flash Gordon comic strip, as he asserts that it arrived on the moon before Neil Armstrong, meaning that imagination is faster than reality. Angles became an early metaphor for freedom and dreams. “Angels are free to fly wherever they want”. But his angels, made of wood with flapping wings, followed by a series caught in a trap and even broken in the next series, and recently facing the future, all in parallel with the social and political situation of the country.

Venice Biennale 2015
The 2015 Art Biennale closes a sort of trilogy that began with the exhibition curated by Bice Curiger in 2011, Illuminations, and continued with the Encyclopedic Palace of Massimiliano Gioni (2013). With All The World’s Futures, La Biennale continues its research on useful references for making aesthetic judgments on contemporary art, a “critical” issue after the end of the avant-garde and “non-art” art.

Through the exhibition curated by Okwui Enwezor, La Biennale returns to observe the relationship between art and the development of human, social and political reality, in the pressing of external forces and phenomena: the ways in which, that is, the tensions of the external world solicit the sensitivities, the vital and expressive energies of the artists, their desires, the motions of the soul (their inner song ).

La Biennale di Venezia was founded in 1895. Paolo Baratta has been its President since 2008, and before that from 1998 to 2001. La Biennale, who stands at the forefront of research and promotion of new contemporary art trends, organizes exhibitions, festivals and researches in all its specific sectors: Arts (1895), Architecture (1980), Cinema (1932), Dance (1999), Music (1930), and Theatre (1934). Its activities are documented at the Historical Archives of Contemporary Arts (ASAC) that recently has been completely renovated.

The relationship with the local community has been strengthened through Educational activities and guided visits, with the participation of a growing number of schools from the Veneto region and beyond. This spreads the creativity on the new generation (3,000 teachers and 30,000 pupils involved in 2014). These activities have been supported by the Venice Chamber of Commerce. A cooperation with Universities and research institutes making special tours and stays at the exhibitions has also been established. In the three years from 2012-2014, 227 universities (79 Italian and 148 international) have joined the Biennale Sessions project.

In all sectors there have been more research and production opportunities addressed to the younger generation of artists, directly in contact with renowned teachers; this has become more systematic and continuous through the international project Biennale College, now running in the Dance, Theatre, Music, and Cinema sections.