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”.“Where have you been these couple of days? Been busy so I’ve thought. Not a single word from you every morning,” asked by my girlfriend through chat in WhatsApp as I received this afternoon. “I’m doing this research on diorama at Monas (National Monument), Be, sorry,” I answered to her as I hung on to a railing in the train. ‘Be’ is my nickname to her.
“Well, so what have you found throughout this research?” Her questions annoyed me a bit, and perhaps she also was annoyed as she asked the question.
“How unusual, normally if it related to research, you would care less.” I answered.
“Yeah, because you did not even bother giving me any heads up of your condition. That usually means you found something really interesting, perhaps more interesting than I am. Probably, another woman…!” I know that it’s not the girlfriend who did not believe in what I am working on, especially the fact that at the end of the sentence she put an emoticon that sticks out tongue. I knew that she started to play her jokes on me. So I welcomed the jokes and answered, “Hehehehe! Yeah, I found a vending machine there.” I answered seriously.
“Vending machine? If you’re looking for vending machine, don’t bother going to Monas, there are other places that have them.” She replied to me.
My answer did kind of weird, because the result of my research was about my findings on vending machine. It may heard like a joke, or something that I made up. But it is true that what I found from my research to the Diorama of Monas is relating to vending machine or machines that sell beverages automatically. It is that vending machine in the Diorama Museum of Monas is not limited to its function as a machine that sells its product automatically without the existence of operator, but also the intervention it has on the presentation of the diorama inside the museum.
Every time I visited the Museum of Monas, as I entered the museum, I have always felt thirsty. Scouring through the long hallway entering monas especially in the afternoon where the air gets so hot, which I’m pretty sure went the same for everyone. Then, I proceed to the vending machine, yet how unfortunate it is to find that it’s already packed with people fighting each other to taste a sip of the beverages. So I decided to go around looking at the diorama.
Funny thing happened as I was looking around the diorama. It was as if the vending machine was summoning me to its presence. Not because of my dry throat, but because of its appealing look that was reflected through the glass of the diorama. It was so bright, colorful, as if it was waving calling the thirsty me. And yet again, I had to compete with others who was also reaching out to the beverages. I thought, maybe it was because the museum was packed with people, if it was not, then the vending machine would standing alone there.
The initial of my research was to see the potential of narrative out of the big theme that was served. For instance, the diorama that tells story regarding of Palapa Vow, it was not regarding the Palapa Vow that I read, but also about the body posture of Gajah Mada as he lifted up the keris, or the facial expressions of the people that sat behind him, and the same went for every diorama with its different themes. However due to the constant reflection of vending machine as I was observing the diorama, so I began to notice the connection between the diorama and the vending machine. By putting the vending machine inside the museum of Monas, then automatically the management also put another object to be observed other than the diorama. These two objects (diorama and vending machine) are fighting over the spot as the object of observation by visitors. It is a funny thing to say that the vending machine was put as an object of observation like a diorama, however if we recall back by seeing the reflection of its form on the diorama glass, it was as if the vending machine wants to retain its place as an observable object. In which to that case, the glass of the diorama became the medium.
Then, I took out my camera and started to experiment with the reflections of vending machine on the glass of the diorama. Because the reflection was not limited in one place, I began to walk around the museum to get the desired picture. The reflection of vending machine on the Sriwijaya trade diorama, the construction of Borobudur, between the temples near to the people who were praying, on the diorama of the Palapa Vow, diorama of the voyage of Bugis people, diorama of trade transactions during the era of Majapahit Empire, on the diorama of War of Makassar, diorama of the proclamation recitation of Indonesia’s independence, diorama of romusha torture, and lastly, on the diorama of War of Surabaya. I began to construct a separate story as a result of the pictures that I took by utilizing the reflections of the vending machine. A creative yet funny work which I thought, was when I put the vending machine inside the frame and began to form a whole complete new narration. During this process, the camera became a supplementary means in capturing the moment and thus preserving them. As how the diorama treated the individuals that were trading in the port of Sriwijaya Empire, I positioned my camera at an angle by considering the range of shoot and the angle of the desired shoot, making the vending machine right where I wanted it to be. As I took the shot, the result was telling a story about the merchant was selling vending machine.
“Turns out back in those days vending machine already existed, huh?” I entertained myself as I’m checking out the results through the LCD screen in the camera. And so the same principle went to every other diorama that had the potential of reflecting the vending machine.
The result of the creative work does possess risks on the presentation. Argumentation responding to the matter will arise, both positive and negative. The positive responds may be in how the vending machine was positioned at a ‘common composition’ inside the frame. Such as, between the individuals who were sitting down, beside the people who were standing, or at an area of terrace on a diorama of Majapahit trade. While the negative responds may arise if the vending machine becomes a dominant object or positioned at an incorrect composition. For example, where the vending machine came in bigger size if compared with the object or subject inside the diorama, or when the diorama was placed on the top of Borobudur Temple, or where on the throne of King of Majapahit, as the vending machine replaces the position of the king. However, for me the positive and negative responds on the picture has no importance at all. Because from the very start, it was so obvious that the vending machine wanted to dominate the presentation of the diorama story. Even if the pictures, were distributed routinely without a full awareness to the diorama story, then it would became no other than an advertisement of vending machine. Isn’t it that the vending machine had already become the part of the story of diorama?
In one side, beyond its dominance as an “presentation object” to the visitors, vending machine also has its influence on the regulation of the museum. As if it became a VVIP subject that intervenes with the condition of the museum. For instance, inside the museum, right in front of the steps towards the tower, there was a restriction with bright lights stating “No Eating/Drinking and Sleeping inside the museum”. The warning assertively stated how we are not allowed to eat, drink, nor sleep inside the museum. Thus when a person buys a drink from the vending machione, the regulation on prohibition for drinking is violated, and when the drinking regulation was violated, then automatically the regulation regarding sleeping and eating is not in effect anymore. “If that person could drink, why shouldn’t I eat or sleep in here, it’s the same thing anyway,” So I thought in my observation of the prohibition signs and the events that took place around it that relates with the vending machine. Thus, the prohibition signs should have stated this: “No eating, drinking, nor sleep is allowed, however if you’re thirsty, feel free to buy the drink inside the vending machine.” However, I thought that it is a paradox.
On the other side, the presence of vending machine becomes a representation of capitalism and industrialism on the diorama. How could be, the regulation of the museum which were made by the management of the museum could be easily violated by buying beverages through the vending machine that existed inside the museum. So the saying goes like this, if the visitor buys beverages at vending machine, the visitors can do what they want, which was to drink inside the museum and more dramatically than that is that the diorama was only an object that is installed so that the vending machine would attracts potential customer.
However, the story of the battle between diorama and vending machine that I made as an argumentation due to the lack of my knowledge to the historical truth. By observing diorama, I can comprehend the history of Indonesia, even though it is rather difficult to find such truth. There is an ongoing battle between archive, an aging historical subject, or a young history researcher. Everyone has their own testimony as they fight for the truth status and at the end one who dominates become a new media product.
In the end, it is not important for me to comprehend history by simply seeking for its truth. It is what brings to messing around with history. Diorama is a history of the past that was fabricated by an artist as he was fulfilling the order from the government as a representation of his era. As I represent the story of history from the version of the diorama artists, it is undeniably true that we cannot separate ourselves from the past. Thus, I then proceed to create my own version of history so that I could tell it to the next generation. Regarding the vending machine that was dominating the diorama or because it was intervening diorama regulation was a critic to my observation of the Monas museum. But what is obvious is that the vending machine won’t join the fight in my love story as worried by my girlfriend through her WhatsApp messages. They won’t fight to become the subject that dominates this heart. ***