Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryadarmo performs her work "I'm a Ghost in My on House" at the Singapore Art Museum. (Photo courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)

Melati Suryodarmo Gets Her Grind On


FEBRUARY 10, 2015

Indonesian performance artist Melati Suryadarmo performs her work "I'm a Ghost in My on House" at the Singapore Art Museum. (Photo courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)

Performance artist Melati Suryodarmo epitomized labor and drudgery as she performed "I'm a Ghost in My Own House" at the Singapore Art Museum.

The piece entails her using a rolling pin to grind down a roomful of charcoal, a symbol of life's energy, for up to 12 hours with pauses to rest or sleep on the second-floor balcony of the Singapore Art Museum. The 45-year-old described her performance as a way to bring up home's paradoxes of a place "where we live and an environment we feel attached to or familiar with, whether it be our culture, country, work, and so on."

"A home can be peaceful but also a place for confrontation, disasters, and conflicts," Melati said.

"The motion of crushing or grinding involves emotions due to its repetition. We do not think about our surroundings, as we become one with ourselves," she added of "I'm a Ghost in My Own House," which was performed to critical acclaim in Indonesia and around the world since its debut in Bandung, West Java, in 2012.

Melati's physical and emotional performance has once again given her accolades, winning the Jurors' Prize Award for the 2014 Asian Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize on Jan. 22.

She was one of two recipients of the S$15,000 ($11,997) prize money, the other being Chinese artist Liu Jian Hua for his work "Trace."

Indonesian curator Rifky Effendy said "I'm a Ghost in My Own House" reflects Melati's total approach to her art, which she also proved with her previous work "Exergie -- Butter Dance."

"In 'I'm a Ghost in My Own House,' the audience gets to feel Melati's alienation, sadness, fatigue and uncertainty as she grinds them down along with the charcoal," Rifky said. "While the work perhaps bring up issues like domestic violence and political changes, it also symbolized her strength, perseverance and resilience."

Still, the S$60,000 grand prize of the APB Foundation Signature Art Prize went to Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen for his 2013 work "PYTHAGORAS," a video installation piece that centers on four different works that react to one another in a single space. Inspired by Greek philosopher Pythagoras of Samos, the piece creates an immersing experience for audiences to explore the unseen and the concealment of power, sound or voices through veils and curtains.

"PYTHAGORAS" also features film and literary characters like the Wizard of Oz, Stanley Kubrick's Hal 9000 and Jean-Luc Godard's Alpha 60, all of whom use the effect of their "voices" to achieve their respective purposes.

Indonesian performance artists Melati Suryadarmo, right, accepts the Juror's Prize Award from Roland Pirmez of the APB Foundation. (Photo courtesy of Singapore Art Museum)

In their statement, the judging panel of international and regional art experts -- including director of Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art Chris Saines, Bangkok Art and Culture Center director Luckana Kunavichayanont and Singapore Art Museum director Susie Lingham -- noted that " 'PYTHAGORAS' is an extremely compelling work that draws the viewer into an overwhelming and immersive environment. In many ways, 'PYTHAGORAS' is a post-modern synthesis of image and sound, theater and spectacle.

"['PYTHAGORAS'] picks up on the anxiety of living and evokes an almost visceral reaction in its viewers, making us feel uncertain and anxious and in doing so becomes a work that truly captures a contemporary moment."

Taiwan's Yao Jui-chung + Lost Society Document (LSD) rounded out the winners, taking the S$10,000 People's Choice Award for "Mirage -- Disused Public Property in Taiwan," a video installation piece taking on consumerism in his home country.

Founded in 2008 by the APB Foundation and the Singapore Art Museum, the triennial prize seeks to present the most outstanding contemporary art from both established and emerging artists in the Asia-Pacific region.

The third edition of the award ceremony included 105 nominations from 24 countries and territories, which were later shortlisted to 15 works of art from 13 countries in August 2014.