Lala Bohang's 'The Book of Questions' and Carol Bolt's 'The Book of Answers. (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com and Gramedia.com; collage by Iman Firmansyah)

Lala Bohang's 'The Book of Questions' Thin on Answers, Big on Shock Value

BY :DHANIA SARAHTIKA

APRIL 24, 2018

Jakarta. Around 20 people were seated in a circle at 2Madison Eatery in Kemang, South Jakarta, on Saturday (21/04). One by one they answered questions they plucked from a little black book in front of them. The questions veered from the serious to the playful: "What does darkness remind you of?" "Where do you keep your condoms?"

The little black book was "The Book of Questions," a playbook created by visual artist and writer Lala Bohang.

If you think you've seen the cover before, you'd be right. It's modeled right after Carol Bolt’s best-selling "The Book of Answers."

Lala Bohang's 'The Book of Questions' and Carol Bolt's 'The Book of Answers.' (Photo courtesy of Amazon.com and Gramedia.com; collage by Iman Firmansyah)

Lala thinks readers deserve a book of questions as well as a book of answers.

"Why would you look for answers in a book? Life is not that simple," said the artist, who was born in 1985.

Lala has hosted a series of "playdates" for her new book, inviting friends and journalists to experience the book in a soirée.

The first playdate was held at Yats Colony in Yogyakarta on April 7 with fellow artists and members of Gramedia Pustaka Utama's "Make Your Own Book" workshop.

The people attending the gathering are invited to play a game barely modified from "Truth or Dare," with "truth" as the only option.

The Book of Questions is given randomly to a person sitting in the circle, who then has to place a palm on the cover to channel his or her energy.

Then he or she opens the book to a random page and answers the question printed there as honestly as possible.

The answer must never leave the room.

After that, the book is given to another person in the circle. So it goes on and on until everyone gets a turn to answer a question.

From Exhibition to Print

Lala made one copy of The Book of Questions as part of an art exhibition at Jakarta's National Gallery in 2014, with no intention back then to ever publish it commercially.

In the art installation, titled "Written by Lala Bohang," the artist imagined herself as a best-selling writer.

She created a series of fake books, one of them was The Book of Questions.

Back then, visitors to the exhibition could answer any question and stick the answer on a piece of paper to the wall.

The book never saw public eye again until Lala brought it to the Makassar International Writers Festival (MIWF) in May 2017.

She was there for the launch of her second illustrated poetry book, “"The Book of Invisible Questions."

At the launch party, Lala decided to invite the audience to play with The Book of Questions.

"Many people asked then if I was ever going to publish the book officially," she said.

The Book of Questions will be launched on May 5 at this year’s MIWF.

There will be a total of 500 questions in it, written in Indonesian and English.

Half of the questions have been modified from the 2014 versions.

Some of the questions in the new book: "Who hugs you the most?," "What’s the purpose of your savings?," "Why does it always have to end with sex?"

"I want teenagers in high school to be able to enjoy my book, too, so I keep the sexual themes general.... I don’t know why sex is still a taboo. It’s like eating and breathing. Things that are part of us, as human beings, should never be a taboo. It should be okay to talk about sex," Lala said.

Lala said she gets her inspirations from things and people around her. She collected the questions in her book by asking her family and friends what were the biggest questions they always had in mind.

"There were three recurring themes: existential questions about life, love and death… then I thought up more questions from those themes. The whole process was very organic, sporadic even," she said.

Hard Truths Revealed

"Everyone has something we can learn from. But how we can tease that out of them? That's the point of the book," Lala said.

"When I play it with my friends, even those in my inner circle, there are always moments like, "I didn’t know that about you!" she said.

Lala Bohang at her 'The Book of Questions' playdate in Jakarta. (JG Photo/Dhania Sarahtika)

Citra Marina, an illustrator and the creator of the famous animated character "Choo Choo," who attended Lala's playdate in Jakarta, admitted the book soirée was an interesting social experience.

"Lala obviously didn’t write the questions for us, but everyone felt the questions were very pertinent. They felt somehow 'accusatory' though they weren’t meant to be aggressive. We're forced to face questions we normally swat away," she said.

Lala herself said the book helps us to "stay in touch with ourselves," triggering memories or feelings we have long forgotten.

"The book forces us to answer what we don’t want to answer," Citra said.

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