Veteran artist Heri Dono will represent Indonesia at this year’s Venice Biennale with a site-specific solo presentation entitled “Voyage – Trokomod.”
Commissioned by Sapta Nirwandar and curated by Carla Bianpoen, Restu Imansari Kusumaningrum, and Asmudjo Jono Irianto, “Voyage – Trokomod” is designed to resonate with the notion of a certain open-ended diversity, demonstrated by the aspirations and visions conjured up by the staggering plurality of contemporary global society, and aptly summarized by Biennale artistic director Okwui Enwezor’s chosen theme, “All the World’s Futures.”
A sense of cultural resurgence is evident in the work of recent contemporary Indonesian art. Restu Kusumaningrum, director of Bumi Purnati Indonesia and co-producer of the Indonesia National Pavilion, emphasizes the fact that “there’s a new spirit in Indonesia today. Cognizant of our history and culture, we are at the same time moving forward and going global—with a new president, we are confident. Heri Dono is a strong, creative artist, who looks forward while critically considering the past and the present.”
Born in Jakarta in 1960 and now based in Jogjakarta, Dono was one of the first Indonesian contemporary artists to break onto the global art circuit in the early 1990s. Known for his omnivorous cultural imagination that blends references to traditional Javanese wayang puppet theater, cartoons and animation, and trenchant political commentary, Dono arguably set the tone for the socially conscious practices of today’s younger generation of Indonesian artists, such as I Nyoman Masriadi, Entang Wiharso, Eko Nugroho, and Tromarama.
Dono’s presentation in Venice centers around the fictional figure of the Trokomod, a cross between a Trojan horse and a Komodo dragon — or, in the artist’s own words, “an ancient animal made futuristic. It comes out of the part of the world that is like a blank spot in the world of fine arts.”
Artistic advisor Carla Bianpoen appreciates Dono’s work for the way in which it turns the tables on the colonialist, somewhat condescending view of Asian cultures that still persists today, showing how an equivalent mythologizing of “the West” operates in Indonesian culture. “Unlike an ethnographic museum which traditionally displays ‘exotic’ cultures from a Western point of view, Heri Dono switches roles showing Western icons as we perceive them.”
Heri Dono’s “Voyage – Trokomod” runs at the Pavilion of the Republic of Indonesia , Arsenale, Tese delle Vergini, from May 9 – November 22, 2015.
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