Darivisual Province: West Nusa Tenggara Regency/City: North Lombok Subdistrict: Pemenang

When Jatul Discovered The ‘Other’ Archives of Pemenang

Written by Otty Widasari

This article is part of the Eleven Stories from the Southeast written by Muhammad Sibawaihi, Otty Widasari and Manshur Zikri, published by Forum Lenteng in 2016. We re-upload it on the AKUMASSA website in the framework of the “Darivisual”.

As a native of Pemenang, Imam Hujjatul Islam who was usually called Jatul indeed knew the details of Pemenang City very well. He knew people, from the very old ones, who had often given him the stories and tales of Pemenang when he had been a child, to the children whom he often taught to paint and to practice yoga for free. Jatul also knew well all the members of Qur’an recitation Jamaah who had been the students of his grandfather in the past. Jatul’s grandfather had been a Tuan Guru, the term for an Islamic leader in Lombok. Since childhood, Jatul had learnt religion from his grandfather. However, his talent and passion in painting was unstoppable. So he was always at the crossroads between those two socio-cultural backgrounds. Both felt so opposite. Obviously, in the normative view of a society with high level of religiosity such as the society of Pemenang, those two backgrounds were completely different. According to the teachings that he got, a person who practiced the religion properly would always be the most social minded and practiced person who always met lots of people, then delivered his knowledge to the public because it was a big responsibility that he had to bear as a religion expert in society. Meanwhile, the general view that Jatul got was that doing art meant as if did not care about all those big responsibilities. So Jatul did not meet many people too often in his village other than just to socialize normally such as exchanging the greetings. He would rather spend his days painting and discussing with his close friends who were active in the field of arts and culture. However, perhaps because instinctively he still kept the teachings from his grandfather, Jatul was always happy to teach painting to the young children in Pemenang. He did it without any institutional tie and he was not bound by time. Without those ties, his students, who had already started to like the painting activity so much, often did not know where to find their teacher who sometimes disappeared.

The meetings between Jatul and the residents of Pemenang this time were indeed different than usual. Jatul went deeper into his brothers’ selves in Pemenang. He created an art project in census style where people he met in Pemenang could talk about anything in their daily lives, while he was painting their faces. The demography of faces of the residents of Pemenang brought Jatul further into his personal understanding of his hometown. Jatul talked about anything while painting hundreds of faces of the residents of Pemenang.

Tracing the corners of Pemenang and meeting people turned out to be a new experience for Jatul who had been born, had grown up and had been living in Pemenang. Apparently he had many relatives he had never known. Apparently there were many corners that he had not known well all this time. Apparently there were a lot of foreign things he found in his own home. Jatul became enthusiastic to build a personal-social relationship with his own city.

Jatul translated those meetings as “connecting the hearts” because of course the meetings with his fellow residents this time were more impressive than previous meetings, for both parties.

There were two sides in Jatul’s act of “connecting the hearts”. The first was Jatul the archivist. The second party was the residents who became his public of archives. This meeting was performative. It was an event that did not exist anywhere else other than in that place itself.

The archiving done by Jatul could be speculated as something more valuable than the existing conventional archiving form: which was the archiving of the population by the state and simulation archiving by social media on the internet today. It became more valuable because Jatul’s action reduced the distance between the archivist and the public of archives. In the archiving done by the state, the citizen was positioned as one of the ‘obligation to report’ entities as a requirement to become a citizen. Someone who did not have a national ID card could be considered as a citizen who had a legal defect. It was different from the archiving in the world of social media. A resident archived their life and environment then threw them to the public in a global context. There was something that should be recorded in this phase that the citizen was not managing their personal archives, but the service provider that accommodated the archives was the one that was in position as the archivist. Meanwhile, something we saw as the openness in this simulation world was not actually like that. The archivist had a very extraordinarily big universe of data. The public of archives (we could use the popular term: netizen) did not have the ability to stop the archivist to do anything to archives that they threw into the universe of data. Realizing it or not, social media netizen could only use the service after agreeing the specified precondition. It was either the term of condition or privacy agreement. It meant that the service provider had the right for anything that was thrown by the public of archives, with a small chance for the public to fight if their archives were used as an object of particular scrutiny.

There was indeed a difference here between state archives and social media, where in the context of the state, a citizen had the obligation to submit a personal identity to the scope of power control. In the world of social media, the public had choices, to give their personal archives or not to the archivist. As simple as that. Using, or not using social media; “socializing”, or not “socializing”. That was all. Even though the public of archives was very aware of the worst risk of throwing their archives to the universe of data, there was still a current phenomenon which was that the global community was happy to show their handsome or beautiful faces (of course with self-selection) to the public. People liked to collect other people’s reactions to them, to their works, to their personal experiences, and so on. Although they were aware that they were in the public space, the tendency of public of archives of social media was private. They decorated their private rooms to achieve existence in the public area.

Jatul felt nervous every time he had to open a conversation when he wanted to begin his action to paint someone’s face, or to record them, to be exact. After getting the permission from the owner of the face, to break the ice, even though the people he painted included those closest to him, Jatul usually began by asking about their personal identities. Only then Jatul did his “connecting the hearts” action. You are beautiful. The girl blushed. Ah, sir, apparently you are quite handsome, huh? The older man smiled broadly. Your nostrils are very big. The boy giggled. Ah, your house is here, Inaq (Ma’am)? The middle-aged woman nodded.

There was obviously the physical encounter and the environmental perception in the archiving action done by Jatul. And the performativity in question was there. Sometimes Jatul told the truth, and sometimes he was just being polite, or even teased to get a certain reaction. It could be to simply break the ice in “connecting the hearts”, or indeed hoping that specific expressions would come in his paintings. But the one thing for sure was that Jatul gave awareness that archiving is a constructive action. Archives could be directed.

So, what made Jatul’s archiving work special, when compared with the work of the state archiving or social media, was its performative nature. A performative action was considered to have the ability to drive the social gesture of the people, even encouraging a change in culture in the society. Performativity in speech, for example, would convince its listeners more than a flat speech or a speech that depended on the written text. Up to this point, it could be said that Jatul’s action was closer to the community-based media empowerment action. We could call the action to produce archives in social media as a performative event as well. It was also able to move the culture, because netizens believed the interaction building in social media today. However, the performance that happened was in a world in the form of a simulation of the real form (virtual). Without the physical encounter or the environmental perception, this performativity in automatic archiving in social media was not human. The humanity there had already been mediated. It was obviously constructed by several machine works. We felt that we talked to a real person, when we were answering compliment: You’re so sexy!—in the comment box on a photo of us wearing bikini on a holiday at the beach. It was not that we did not know, but we ignored the fact that the compliment was a narrative that had been mediated by the letters on someone’s keyboard, the letters which were sent in simulation way. The commentator also ignored that the sexy photo they commented had already experienced selection procedures many times. Then we all, the inhabitants of the simulation universe, felt the real physical reaction on our bodies as human beings. There were even some emoticon or emoji features to represent our humanity feelings when we reacted.

May I draw your face? I will display this drawing later in Bangsal Port to be exhibited. You may have it after the exhibition ends, or if you do not want to, there may be other people who like my work and want to have it. Or if not, let it remain there to be affected by the heat and rain until it fades. Ah, thank you for willing, if so, please tell me your name. Age? Wow, but you look younger than your age! You like race, huh? Why is your motorbike modified like that?

The mutual understanding had occurred. Archives were created with transparency in every process. Although it resembled the population census, Jatul reduced a lot of things that were there in the state archiving work and social media. Jatul reduced the fear of surveillance. With the painting approach, and then the next open process that had been informed earlier, and then the result that they would enjoy together in Bangsal Menggawe Folk Festival, the public of archives did not feel watched by a power control system.

If a citizen had a tendency to “obey the law” when handing over their identity to be used as state archives, and in social media the public had “private” tendencies, then in Jatul’s work of archives, the public of archives did not just have a collective tendency, but also awareness of the contribution of culture that was indeed built together like the relationship between a farmer and his rice granary.

End of story, that crossroads might no longer be a problem for Jatul. If someone who practiced the religion properly meant to share the life with others in goodness, it was no different than an artist who was none other than a citizen who continued to look for the goodness in building a dignified society.

About the author


Otty Widasari

OTTY WIDASARI is an artist, writer, director and curator. Currently, she is the Director of the Media Education and Empowerment Program (AKUMASSA) at the Forum Lenteng.

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