This article is part of an anthology published by Forum Lenteng, entitled Diorama: Since History is Fiction (2016). We re-publish it on AKUMASSA’s website in the framework of “Darivisual”.
Visiting MonasThe first time I came to Monas (National Monument) probably nine years ago, when I started living in capital city with mother and siblings. That time, my father who had to live separately with us were coming to Jakarta and engaged us to go to Monas just because he had this presumption that: “You’re not a Jakartan if you haven’t been to Monas”. At the moment I was just saying ok because I want to be officially called “A Jakartan”.
My first impression when I visited Monas was, “Dang! This is it?” which I believed that this impression could be had by most of the visitors. Besides of it took a long time to got into the Museum of Monas and the balcony of Monas, I thought that Monas didn’t serve any commodity to attract me and it made me feel that Monas was not special to be visited.
Since that time, every time my father came to Jakarta, he always took his family to picnic at Monas. We all agreed to go to Monas on Saturday night because we can’t stand of the daylight. Moreover, visiting Monas at night is more fun because we could sit on the grass while eating nuts and saw Ondel-Ondel, bicycle with LED, or beautiful lights that projected to Monas. Unfortunately, that habit stopped when I started to go to college and involved in Student Organization.
More or less five years later after we stopped that habit, a friend convinced me to contribute in AKUMASSA program to do a research on the diorama of Monas. I don’t know is this a destiny or universe conspiracy, I finally met Monas again, even almost everyday. When I came back to Monas, I kind of surprised by its change. Monas is more systematic nowadays, even though we can’t deny that there’s still a shortfall in some ways.
When I came back to observed the diorama of Monas, I could not deny that there are a lot of recall memories of history knowledge that I had studied from schools or any other books. This definitely distress me as a spectator with head full of questions, “Why this? Why that?” to every diorama which I observed, whereas the research needed me to focus on the visual of the diorama itself without reckoning the big narrative that offered by the maker of the diorama. I was so annoyed with the existence of the diorama’s glass barrier that it burdened me to observe diorama deeply. Secretly, I hoped that I was a Jinny, a beautiful genie from the soap opera Jinny Oh Jinny, if I were her I must had blink my eyes while nodding my head as a spell so I could get into the diorama, instead of standing in front of the glass barrier and make a serious effort to observe the diorama.
The glass barrier made me more irritated when I wanted to took picture of the diorama with my phone’s camera because of its reflective outside the diorama and the lights in the Museum of Monas. Not to mention the low lighting in certain diorama that seem supporting the glass to reflect preponderantly, coupled by my limited knowledge capacity when I had to enlarge and to find the small narrative.
So, in the end, it came to the moment to photograph the diorama further by involving the reflection reflected on the glass barrier. Actually this method helped me to finally play with the enlargement process. The reflection that initially distressed me, because I had to focus to observed diorama as a visual element, instead was searched so that it could unite with the diorama using this method. Therefore, the reflection automatically became the visual element itself. I ended up searching for the most interesting diorama. I found some of diorama of which if were inserted with that reflection, would produced a unique narrative. When there’s a gesture of a smoking man, I tried to light a lighter and set the reflection of the light and the cigarette. Or when there’s a gesture of a pointing man, I tried to reflect my pointing finger, of course with the help of a camera as a image capture medium.
I ultimately made the glass barrier as a bridge for me to play with the event in the diorama. I forgot the big narrative of the diorama itself. The glass that once became a barrier, instead bridging me to reflected my response that I try to put reflection into the diorama.
I assume this diorama as representation of the historical events which had happened in Indonesia from the ancient man era to New Order era. I have always asked myself the representation of the event every time I’m doing an observation up until now. After I inserted my reflection, I assume that the reflection became the representative of my response when doing the enlargement of the gestures in diorama. By using glass as a bridge, there came the refraction and created a new narrative that was detached from the big narrative itself.
Glass As A Bridge and Made-of-glass Bridge
Before I discuss my view on the glass barrier of diorama that I assume as a bridge, I want to discuss about my conversation with a friend when we talked about a bridge. We assumed that a bridge is a media that function to facilitate a movement from one place to another, which separated by an obstacle in the form of river, sea, et cetera. A bridge also has to be built by a strong construction so that a heavy object could pass without worrying that the bridge will fall. However, after the talk, we found a different reality from our view about bridge before. One of them is the bridge that was made of thin glass in Shiniuzai and Zhangjiajie, China. When I found out the information on Google about the made-of-glass bridge, the first thing in my mind was what’s the connection of China and the made-of-glass bridge that were built across the Grand Canyon in Zhangjiajie Province. If I read these news about the made-of-glass bridge, there are many controversial news raised, such as a car passed by the made-of-glass bridge, the visitors who hit the bridge using sledgehammer, or even that bridge once closed up to a month 13 days since its grand opening. Nevertheless, there was this news that attracted me, specifically about the architect of Zhangjiajie Bridge, Haim Dotan from Israel, who initially rejecting to build the bridge that cross the Grand Canyon because the panorama was too beautiful to be undermined by the existence of a bridge.
This rejection did not break the developer’s desire who planned the project of Zhangjiajie Bridge. After some negotiations, Dotan finally gave in and said, “We can build a bridge under one condition: I want the bridge to disappear.” Departing from Dotan’s statement, the bridge was created.
Zhangjiajie bridge become more interesting to be discussed because it broke the stigma that the construction of the bridge must be strong. Even Dotan himself as architect laugh his design that he made with the five centimeters thickness of the glass, “My God! Can you imagine a construction engineer describes the bridge like this?” (in Stinson, 2015) In addition, Dotan’s design to make an invisible bridge also becomes the main point on this paper. How the glass that could be seen through by the object across it, or if it was connected to the diorama, how the glass could select the spectator’s view on the diorama behind the glass…?
Ah! I was reminded of my friend’s experience when he was observing and taking a picture of diorama using a SLR camera with additional feature of tele lens. We always visit Monas together for approximately one month. One day, my friend happened to find three pairs of legs without a body in one of the diorama and the funny thing is three pairs of legs can only be viewed with enlargement medium alias technology. If we observe with the naked eye, three pairs of mysterious legs are not necessarily to be found. From these findings, the glass was no longer a barrier because the technology has the ability to bring our eyes to see it deeply. The glass was no longer a barrier but a bridge. It connected the diorama and the spectators. The glass’ role becomes disorder. It is no longer obey to its order to limit.
Three Pairs of Mysterious Legs and The Missing People
The diorama of Monas must go through two major Indonesian regime to be completely unveiled. In the Soekarno regime, the diorama-making involved a team of historians to carry out its depiction of events, editing, censorship and others. When entering into the Soeharto regime, then the reselection of the dioramas that had been designed by Soekarno was conducted to conform to the values of Pancasila on his version. Even as they had done before, the making of dioramas in the Soeharto regime also affected by big repression especially related to sorting of events and narratives that built for dioramas.
This events selection that represent particular interests is certainly difficult for Late Edhi Sunarso as an artist who ordered by the State to design the dioramas. Through the interview of Grace Samboh and Late Edhi Sunarso, it transpired that there was indeed a major revision of the dioramas which mostly had finished. One of them is the diorama of Surat Perintah 11 Maret (Order of March the Eleventh).
Regarding the findings of three pairs of mysterious legs, me and my friends ended up discussing whether this is a negligence of the artist, or the artist indeed slipped a “treasure” deliberately because the repression of the regime made the artist lost the freedom of expression. The findings are also considered that in any repression there will be spaces for the opposition as a gap, although it’s not large and having trivia nature. This mysterious three pairs of legs can be read as a “treasure” for its existence as part of a diorama is not lost and is open to the public who saw it.
This discussion was increasingly raising me and my friends’ passion to play around with the diorama. What if the three pairs of mysterious legs are associated with the mysterious case of people disappeared by the regime? That even after 16 years of the collapse of the New Order regime, the missing people are still missing, and the state’s role as not working properly, alias disorder. It seems there is no tendency of the State to resolve the problem of missing people during this time. Finally, me and my friends visited the LBH Jakarta, Elsam, and KontraS to seek for documentation of archives that discuss missing people in the New Order era. I found it interesting in several newspaper articles, that the Armed Forces as an institution or the state department, which has spent decades involved with the cases of missing people have always refused to cooperate with other institutions to uncover cases of missing people. In addition, the court also incriminates the process of searching for missing people.
This claim supports my assumption that the disorder in the State institutions are exists. How come…?! The relatives of the missing people together with the institutions that support them have spent several years looking for and demanding due process of law to the State. Instead of moving forward, they encounter obstacles. The law enforcement process appears to be influenced by the power that is too high to be reached upon. The State which supposed to be a bridge for the missing people to enforce the law, apparently hindered because of the existence of disorder that makes the bridge is not functioning as mediator, as a connector, as a defection for the object to be passed. Or maybe, this bridge was intentional to invisible, such as Dotan said, “I want the bridge to disappear.”
Stinson, L. (2015, Juni 05). The World’s Longest (and Scariest) Glass Pedestrian Bridge. Retrieved November 11, 2016, from Wired: https://www.wired.com/2015/06/worlds-longest-scariest-glass-pedestrian-bridge/