Jakarta. Aksara Bookstore at Pacific Place in Senayan, South Jakarta, overflowed with creativity on Thursday (20/07) when author-cum-artist Goenawan Mohamad launched both a solo exhibition of sketches and the script of an upcoming play titled "Amangkurat, Amangkurat."
Goenawan said the exhibition and play had no connection at all.
"The sketches are on their own. There is no connection at all. The script was launched because it is going to be performed next week. But I had also planned an exhibition, so why not have them at the same time?" he told reporters.
However, both share the same purpose. In his speech during the exhibition's opening ceremony, Goenawan said his works, especially his visual artworks, are meant to combat the "poison" in society, which is hate spread by intolerant groups and religious fundamentalists who consider art blasphemous.
"When rigidity and hate divide us, literature and art can be the antidote to the poison. [...] Little by little, what we should do is to give hope and optimism [to society]," he said.
Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf) head Triawan Munaf, who was also in attendance, agreed with Goenawan. The key is to have a good, functioning ecosystem in the creative industry, so that artists of every kind can spread positive messages through their works.
"Now there are many things we can't predict how they will turn out in the future. We are like blind people in the dark. We don't know how our friends can become our enemies. The ones we're fighting against are those who play God," he said. "Another Stage" marked the third time for Goenawan to present his sketches to the public. Visitors to the bookstore can view 25 of his sketches while browsing through books on July 21-23.
The works are similar to those he exhibited at Dia.Lo.Gue Artspace in Kemang, South Jakarta, in February. Most depicted figures that were not completely realistic or solid. The difference is that Goenawan included more works made with acrylic paints to add more colors, but they are mainly still dominated by black and white.
Art critic Bambang Budjono said in a statement that "the works seem to exist without space and time" and "the pictures do not provide any events."
In "Teko dan Manusia" ("Teapot and Person"), for example, Goenawan only drew a teapot beside a man whose appearance resembled Charlie Chaplin.
Another is "Lear" where Shakespeare's King Lear appears to be sitting on his throne saying "love, and be silent." Beside him were the faces of three women, presumably his three daughters. Each woman's face has a red slash on it. It was not clear which scene of the play or message Goenawan aimed to present.
Some of his sketches combined drawings and writings, including lines from his poems. Just like his previous exhibition at Dia.Lo.Gue, the writings are part of the package, so they are not meant to be read separately or even explain the drawings.
"The words don't matter. It doesn't matter if they're poetry or not. They're just ornaments of the sketch. The mistake people make is trying to define the words," Goenawan told reporters.
Bambang observed that Goenawan's penmanship has its own character and rhythm though not all of it is readable. He assumed that years of editing the Tempo newspaper by hand back before the advent of computers has made his penmanship unique and affected the strokes of his sketches.
"Without realizing it, editors actually have an aesthetic experience that nestles in their subconscious because they have done it [editing by hand] repeatedly for years," Bambang's statement said.
The playwright also launched "Amangkurat, Amangkurat," published by Gramedia Pustaka Utama. Composed of 14 acts, the play is a nonlinear tale of Amangkurat the First, one of the kings of the Islamic Mataram Kingdom in the 17th century.
It started with the collapse of his kingdom after it was attacked by Trunojoyo's troops from Madura. The story moves back and forth between the time Amangkurat deals with his downfall and back when he was still ruling.
Amangkurat is depicted as a cruel, power-hungry ruler who does not hesitate to kill anyone that rebels against him or he considers a threat. The story is about how abuse of power only results in downfall.
"It is not a historical drama. It's more of a tragedy about power," Goenawan told reporters after the opening ceremony.
The play also combines characters' dialogues and lines from "Babad Tanah Jawi" ("History of the Land of Java").
Goenawan said the play had more dialogue than his previous works. He chose the story of Amangkurat because of his familiarity with it since he was young. He used to watch ketoprak, or traditional Javanese drama, performances about the history of Java.
"The more I read and researched about it, the more interesting it got. There are many things that made me think about the dynamics of power," he said.
Komunitas Salihara, an arts community founded by Goenawan, will stage the play at Teater Salihara in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta, on Saturday and Sunday, July 29-30 at 8 p.m.
Iswadi Pratama is in charge of directing, while the cast includes senior actor Slamet Rahardjo, as well as Edwart Manalu and Samsoel Ancoe Maarif.