back to the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta

– karlina supelli
– kamil muhammad
– akbar yumni
– riyadhus shalihin


reflection on the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta by karlina supelli

the last IDEAL PARADISE was shown in jakarta on the 26th, 28th and 29th february 2020 at the national film production studio (PFN). the choreography staging and installation exhibition involved an international team and indonesian artists from various indonesian cities who had different theater backgrounds. this report consists of three parts. the first part is about installation and staging. the report in the first part is certainly not free from the subjective interpretation of the writer, but many of them refer to the observations and conversations of visitors who had captured the author and also conversations with visitors. the second part is about impressions, including from visitors. the third part contains consideration notes.

I. performance
the choice of staging location (PFN building), it needs to be recognized, is a smart choice. the last IDEAL PARADISE (tlIP) weaves the present into past history and questions the future. through several carefully selected texts, tlIP drew on the biblical eschatological promise of the best order of life in eternity into the world's mortality. tlIP transforms religious messages about heaven into a collective imagination of the ideal order of daily living together. may the ideal system, in the present, be called democracy. in the performance, the knots of political history, ideology, ritual and myth are connected through veiled questions. who created the ideal system? ideal for whom? who gets the room and who gets ostracized?
the PFN website takes viewers back to the space that shaped the imagination of indonesians en masse, especially in the new order era. certainly, most of the viewers have watched at least a few PFN films produced for the sake of government education and propaganda. there was silently something dark there, though maybe not all visitors were aware of it.

there is a tickling paradox in tlIP. the long-abandoned dull spaces evoke discomfort, and are even horrified, when they are united with installations that showcase vile history to find the 'ideal paradise.' however, tlIP does not merely represent the past. some performers stand frozen as part of the installation (one half face down). their presence aroused curiosity. in the midst of past deaths, there is a present that is truly alive. however, they are equally mute. only their eyes occasionally looked at visitors; short, piercing, suing. the staging structure in the main studio makes visitors who initially come as spectators become part of the performance. there was stuttering at first. moreover, they were gripped by smoke, rhythmic sounds that filled the entire hall, and the choreography of the performers' bodies in the dim light. the performers also surged towards the audience and caused confusion.
the audience was more relaxed in the procession circling the building through dark and chaotic hallways. returning to the hall which suddenly became narrow, they felt for themselves the struggle for space, the marking of the territory, and removal. melting together with the players, they witnessed a body that was hit by politics. the body, which then rubs together, first pairs, then forms overlapping sets of propensities that keep moving. some visitors interpret this section as a symbol of solemn basic human features: interdependent. the last part of the performance was very touching. almost no visitors recognized the speech footage of one of the founders (founding fathers) of the republic of indonesia. however, that is not important. what is more important is the content of the text and how it is delivered. followed by the quiet voices and cries of the ghost team, all the performers marched forward from one corner of the hall. in the final part, the audience also listens to the key pieces of life history of each performer. there is experience of racism, class differences, political trauma, religious pressure, and so on. the performance closed with a big challenge for the future: what kind of life will we build together?

II. impression
the first interesting impression is the reaction of the audience, which varies on each night of the show. in fact, they are different people every night, not people who come more than once and learn from experience on the first / second night. if the goethe institut has sufficient data on visitors (for example, institutional or professional affiliations), it would be interesting to see its statistics on the third night. staging that fuses the players with the audience is very rare in indonesia, or maybe it never was. they feel something strange, a surprise, when the performers would also 'become a spectator' through the sharp eyes watching the audience in front of him. many viewers admitted the new experience was shocking, nervous, and curious. they are made to wonder: what will they experience next?

quite a lot of viewers are helped by films / texts that are shown and spoken, especially those accompanied by indonesian. it must be recognized that not all visitors understand english very well. in the event that this problem exists, it can still be said that they experienced tlIP through their entire drama.
the procession isn't all smooth. there are spectators who catch the whispers of the ghost team with curiosity. someone was amazed: "is he really talking to me?" or confused, "oh, i thought he was inviting me to talk, but when i answered it turned out he kept talking" (heard in a conversation between the audience). it's a bit unfortunate that there was this part that had been "scattered." not all ghost performers are sure of what they are doing, maybe because they see the reaction of some viewers who are busy talking to themselves.
the final part impressed many spectators. they did not expect at all to be faced with living archives. the figure who initially felt strange and even "intimidating" (the term of visitors in a discussion with claudia) suddenly appeared as a human person who told a key event in his life. the stories are personal but not without connection with the surrounding cultural socio-political climate. what also needs to be appreciated is claudia bosse's unique way of managing visitors to enter the building. she invited the audience in person and then invited them into group after group. occasionally she greeted kindly, "do you want to go in now?" this method makes visitors waiting eagerly to be invited soon. in other words, the show began even before the stage itself was entered.

III. notes
tlIP performances in indonesia involve artists from several countries with different theater backgrounds. it may sound cliché to say that this performance is a place of good exchange of experience and culture. as a matter of fact, all parties involved acknowledged the intense learning process in the midst of a very tight training schedule and strict discipline. the language barrier that appeared at the beginning of the exercise, is quite certain, can be effectively overcome. claudia made a quick decision on the ground for some necessary modifications to "save" the performance. meanwhile, during training sessions which, according to some players, were shocking because of the different culture of speech and work habits, it did not turn out to be an ongoing issue. this is evident from the smooth performances and the apparent warmth among artists outside of the time of practice / staging. some indonesian artists can even jokingly say 'shock' experience. the installation of the results of collaboration with the indonesian team was also commendable, as was the design of the out-costume of the players who were praised by many visitors.
tlIP received positive reviews in several indonesian newspapers and magazines. i myself dare say that tlIP staging in jakarta was very successful, both in terms of staging, interaction with the audience, and cooperation between nations. it is regrettable that the comments in the german- language newspaper (faz) are actually written with a very limited narrow perspective, without discussing the staging itself.
some visitors (and one or two indonesian players) once questioned the role of indonesian artists: why they were not involved in more complicated choreography, given that some already had body- performance skills. the answer can be technical in terms of a relatively short training period, or experience in previous tlIP performances. however, i suspect it is more related to claudia's concept of the ghost team in tlIP. one thing is certain, they are not just frills. the ghost team is an important part of the integrity of the tlIP performance.
indeed, tlIP can look like it wants to display many things. however, what is abundant in the end is not fragmented. all unite in the historical circle of human longing for the 'ideal paradise' and the effort to achieve it, with all the consequences in the politics of space and time.

karlina supelli is an internationally recognized indonesian philosopher and astronomer who contributed advice content for the performance of the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta.

– karlina supelli
– kamil muhammad
– akbar yumni
– riyadhus shalihin


reflection on the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta by kamil muhammad

nearly a year ago, on 11 may 2019, i took claudia and guenther from theatercombinat and the program team from goethe-institut to the northern part of jakarta as part of the research for the last IDEAL PARADISE in jakarta. i was not initially sure where to take them; on the email i received, the idea was to see how cultural identities formed urban spaces. having felt that they may have been well introduced to the grand narrative of national post-colonial projects, i decided to take them to the unsung parts of jakarta: the informal settlements and economic spaces. off to north jakarta we went.

prior to this, i must admit i had limited exposure to theatre. the name theatercombinat was briefly mentioned during, strangely, a discussion on psychoanalysis that i attended at gudskul. that said, the intricacy of how theatre works, at least at the conceptual level, has been something that i took a particular interest in. specifically: in how the breaking of the fourth wall takes place as gazes are set between performers and audiences, each hesitantly trying to pull each other into their territory. it parallels the performativity of urban spaces. what is urbanism, after all, if not a constant, oft- violent negotiation of territories?

so the trip was a memorable one as i felt a personal kinship in the way claudia critically interrogated how urban spaces work. the task i set myself was then to use the large field of taman fatahilah, a linear river-front settlement of kampung tongkol, and maze-like alleys of gang gloria and petak sembilan, as a context in which political and historical mise-en-scene had shaped the way the spaces perform materially. the tactility, the smell, and other sensory attributes of each of those spaces happened both as a result of top down power play and its bottom up transgressive responses. if you have been to kopi tak kie in the afternoon as it closes with its conflicting smell of turtle meat and black coffee, you know what i mean.

this presents a challenge: how do you transpose the contestation of material fact and political spaces into a two-hours long theatrical performance without succumbing to literalism and metaphors?

this is the strength of theatercombinat. at the performance i attended, the space divulged its permeability of by leaving clues i.e. opened doors, tight spaces, and actors walking in specific directions. like a nod to the sociologist bruno latour, we traversed through the rooms and the large spaces to discover that performing was not confined to you and i; indeed, the spaces were filled with actants: from images of decapitation and hung mannequins, to actor akbar yumni standing still in the corner of a room as an audience member passed him by, all were objects and subjects. we gazed and were gazed at.

with that strategy, two particularly powerful moments stood out and they took place successively. the first one began as the audience was seemingly restricted in one side of the large hall behind a long black rope, while the performance happened in the other. the slow, jerky movements of german actors were captivating enough until the audience realized the rope was cut. and there went the border. we slowly stepped into their zone, and as if given a commando, we swarmed the spaces until we reached a situation that can only be described as a gallery space with confused/intrigued visitors surrounded by modern art behaving erratically. the hall was well occupied with a curious mass of bodies in slow, repetitive movement accompanied by a monophonic rhythm.

suddenly, i saw an actor running through the space in a straight, directional manner—traversing through us all—and bounced off, making sudden turns as she saw fit. this was the second moment that took my breath away: the abstraction of how you break a space—often discussed in architecture as a design strategy—took place in real time as a performance strategy. with it came the change of intensity, and what came next was a series of movements anchoring on the vectorial nature of the performers. the foot sweeps, the arm extension, a change of clothes: one cannot help but try to make sense of them by crossing the metaphorical bridge and see if they are to resemble a narrative that we all seem to know. maybe the foot sweeps were an act of territorial-marking that ex-colonial powers struggled to maintain? did the change of clothes signify a reversal in the order of influence? at a post-event chat with one of the actors, i was assured that that was not the case. but you could easily have spent that night defining the event as a list of verbs—to constrict, to expand, to graze, and so on; making you wonder whether claudia took a page out of the sculptor richard serra’s playbook.

space is what the last IDEAL PARADISE attempted to examine. as such, the use of small and large, indoor and outdoor spaces at PFN (produksi film negara) complex was intriguing. the increased moisture from this rainy season heightened the atmospheric quality. i heard that the neglected rooms filled with broken props were occupied too: by ghosts and horror stories that, incidentally, made up a lot of lower grade films in indonesia. as we walked out and in and out again to the closing of the play, i could not help but wished claudia would have integrated more of the political history of PFN as part of the play. PFN complex, that night, was a spatial abstraction. unyil was nowhere to be heard.

and this feeling stemmed from the promise of the site specificity of the last IDEAL PARADISE, which in many ways, to me, was well delivered. but whose narrative are we listening to, and whose future are we looking at? to whom do these spaces perform and deliver? the last act of the play was the most touching. standing apart from each other, each actor performed a monologue of a personal nostalgia—one spoke about the wanting to go to the woodstock, and another reminisced about buying their first limp bizkit cd. it brought the abstraction back to the ground. it became rooted again, stories of the informals and the transgressive—that i hoped is what claudia saw in those spaces in north jakarta.

kamil muhammad is an architect and researcher who did research for the performance of the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta.

– karlina supelli
– kamil muhammad
– akbar yumni
– riyadhus shalihin


reflection on the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta by akbar yumni

body contact and performative equality
in judith butler's view, politics can take place when society is not seen just as a visual phenomenon, but it implies society happens when people’s bodies are present and are facing each other. butler's view of the body as a political form is demonstrated in the last IDEAL PARADISE (tlIP) performance in jakarta that took place at the end of february 2020. understanding the presence of the body for others, citing butler’s view, is a presupposition of the social dimension, in line with hannah arendt's framework of the act of speaking as a political matter and, thus, presupposes the existence of other parties.

tlIP performance is claudia bosse’s seminal work. she is an artist from germany living in vienna, austria and her work tries to activate the body to be present. tlIP uses a site-specific theatre approach, in the sense that the performance seeks to activate several parts of the PFN building (perusahaan film nasional, or national film company building), presenting memories related to the history of propaganda films during the authoritarian regime that took place in indonesia. as a performance, tlIP is a landscape of real and temporary moments from a view of the body and space. this approach is corresponding to butler’s view of the body that performance takes place in social organisms. performativity cannot take place in its own space, or executed alone, because it always presupposes and reproduces a series of social relations, both relationships between humans, and non-human (material) relations, objects relations, or even regarding human relations with technology. we can see it, for example, through the performativity of a professor presenting an academic lecture; this activity will not take place effectively and performatively if it is not supported by certain appropriate space, sound technology, projectors and the screens, and so on, even this activity requires the need for an audience—which are in that case fulfilled by the students. it means that performativity always requires a series of prevailing social relations, just as performance in gender is always connected with the social order that surrounds it. the approach in the tlIP performance itself is a performativity that does not only assume a relationship with the space of PFN building and its surroundings, and including its objects, since this performance also presupposes its relationship with the audience through the gaze between the performer and the audience, with an assumption that they (the audience) are present together and are also a part of the performance.

another approach of the tlIP performance is site-specific theatre that tries to bring performance to the space and its architecture, specifically the PFN building, which features a performance session in the form of the implementation of a ritual process one by going around the old and abandoned buildings of the PFN, in order to reactivate the memory of propagandist events that were shown in propaganda films produced in the building. the tlIP performance is a landscape that extends the relationship of the body with objects, architectural space, and the audience as a discourse about politics that departs from material things. in jacques ranciere's political discourse, politics is defined as a means to re-create the political ones from non-political ones. in the context of jacques ranciere's view, the tlIP performance can be interpreted as a reconfiguration of the sensory order of the possible relations of the body, the space, and objects, as a real experience and present with the performance.

one moment of the body presence depicted in tlIP can be understood through the performance session on the body contact. in the performance, the body contact introduced as dependent bodies is seen to be related to how one performer rests (makes contacts). on certain parts of the body of another performer. this very simple element of the performance is quite difficult to present since it is related to the presence of the body from the other party through body contact temporarily and spatially. choreography in the body contact also always needs the presence of what butler calls a social organism, to be in the context of this performance as a collective body organisms, where one’s body part must support body parts of other performers through the body contacts. such body contacts are moving toward each other, due to the spatiality and temporality of the body contacts which supposedly support each other, and the movements also become temporal due to the mutual understanding of the body's movements through each body of the performers.

such body contact moments which are supporting each other through one of the body parts of each performer, as presented in the body contact session at tlIP, are moments of temporality and spatiality. this can be said as the presence of a real body since it does not depart from an abstract choreographic system. as performers, they cannot even predict which direction the body of other performers will move, because everything comes into being within time and space. the movement of the body in the body contact is very dependent on how the body moments rely on one another or the moment of the meeting between each body of the performers. those who accept and provide the greatest body support are those who want to communicate with their language. likewise, those who accept the body language receive the simultaneous and temporal moment because the shape of the body contact work system is not anticipatory, or mechanical. retrieving the language from the body of another performer's partner can also be considered as an active movement in the sense that in the body contact there is an awareness opening between receiving and giving simultaneously. as butler's view, that performativity can only take place presupposing and by reproducing social relations, in the context of the body contact performed in the show, social organisms are formed because there lies the mutual support between each of these performances. this moment of mutual support is a moment of presence and equality that is temporal because it is very dependent on the spatiality of the individual actors.

experience in undertaking body contact performance is the experience of knowing and understanding a role through the training process. the embodiment during the body contact training process becomes the process of knowing, because the knowledge gained is not merely cognitive, but this performance provides an opportunity to embody the knowledge simultaneously when the performers make the body contact. knowing by doing is temporal, and the experience of executing the body contact cannot be reproduced, let alone predicted, due to its spatial experience with the space and presence of other bodies. in martin heidegger's view, understanding (verstehen) is not a method or way, because understanding is supposed to be neither cognitive nor reflective. understanding in the view of heidegger is an existentialist thing, of how to be in the world (in-der-welt-sein). understanding in the context of body contact is also not to understand something in the definition of experts related to knowing the method and so on, because understanding through body contact departs from the experience of doing it, knowledge is acquired simultaneously when the body is present when touching and in contact with other bodies. this choreography in body contact is a kind of criticism of modernity, especially related to the body in a representational view that is mechanical and, thus, can be anticipated.

as a social organism that enables performativity, a body contact performance is also a moment that presupposes equality between the performers. for another body to be present, equality must always be assumed. this equality roots from the existence of a mutually supporting body between each performance, as something which presupposes the presence of each other. accepting and giving rest of the body without having to anticipate is an experience of equality. referring to hannah arendt's view, the performance needs to assume the presence of the other as something equal for dialogue and conversation to take place. that said, the assumption of equality in the body contact performance has an impact that actually there is no such performer who plays better than others, while assuming others play poorly, because basically the relationship supposes and supports each other through this body requires mutual support and understanding with each other. the context of equality in body contact is also related to the awareness of social organisms who are always reproduced together in this performance, where basically the body is always aware of the relationship between one another.

such embodiment relations in the performance emphasizing body contact can also be interpreted in the view of merleau-ponty, where he argues that there is no separation between mind and body. being in a body contact performance presupposes simultaneous awareness, where the performers who perform the actions have similar awareness (or even the same awareness) as the other body, space, and the audience gaze presented in the performance. simultaneous awareness also shows that there is no mechanistic or anticipatory movement in the body's movements. this is because bodily awareness is always connected to the other body, space, and audience simultaneously— consistently this simultaneity is also what is meant by performance in organisms and social relations. in line with ponty's view, anticipatory and mechanistic matters are basically consciousness that separate the mind and body. this anticipatory and mechanistic awareness can usually be seen in abstract choreographic models because the body seems to have been designed and mechanistic, as is the practice of performances which presuppose the body as representative. however, the body contact shown in tlIP can also be viewed as a display of a real body, a body that is always connected to the other body, space, and the audience simultaneously. it presupposes an awareness that is always connected with others, which then points out the radical form of equality presented in tlIP.

akbar yumni is an artist and curator who was one of the performers of the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta.

– karlina supelli
– kamil muhammad
– akbar yumni
– riyadhus shalihin


reflection on the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta by riyadhus shalihin

the practice in the show the last IDEAL PARADISE gave me some experiences that i found interesting, because they could be developed individually. first of all, i gained experience in composing dramaturgy: the first arrangement in the issue of ideas, how claudia spread her conceptual universe that started from how she concocted various kinds of problems that are happening lately in various parts of the world, namely: terrorism, racism, disaster (natural and social) and the problem of colonialism - some of these problems are not side by side in a linear fashion, but rather are oriented randomly and fragmented, the expanse is broad and complex.

the idea is based on the panorama of post 9/11 violence in america, the influx of immigrants from conflict areas in the middle east to europe, then met with other regions, namely the historical area of indonesia, which was made visible through staging it at the PFN building (national film company). the influences reach further back than the building of the indonesian nation with many traces - from buildings with state-of-the-art facilities in southeast asia, to the making of countless films within the PFN buildung. this meeting is risky and claudia's strategy to bridge it, through the viewing archives of the viewing of 10 performers in indonesia, and the biographical matters outside the narrative (nation). claudia applies the history of the people (represented by the voice of the masses) and the history of the self - in the structure of her tour, claudia takes a broad dimension (the history of the nation, social and political) before finally pursing one by one into a personal dimension.

the show, which began with an installation that combined a collection of ethnographic collections from the vienna museum - claudia took interest in how the body which was usually represented by europe, reacted towards the archive artefact and the contact with other materials such as: carpet, globe, manikin, feather, cotton which is arranged in grotesque ways, and is crossed with several film posters that have been produced at PFN. the combination is filled by the body of the performers, which blends into one part of the installation. the audience then merged into the room with this performative exhibition situation, where they could choose and determine which parts of the exhibition they were going to target or watch. then the performance relocated into a large room, where indonesian performers would stare at the audience accompanied by screen films about astronauts, and the lives of indigenous inuit. a world in the middle of nowhere ambush - with smoke floating between the steps of the performers who entered forward and backward.

before finally being solved by the beat of the steps of the performers who split the standing steps of the audience. from here then the clear boundary between the performer and the audience merges, which is then followed by the procession where the letters 'ideal paradise' are carried, while words from the bible, about the day of resurrection spoken in part 'apocalyptus john' accompany the walk around the PFN ruins. Returning to the main hall, all those involved were confined - in a construction called the 'cage room' where a video was played about immigrants entering europe followed by texts about 'borders' 'material trails' until finally the room was brightly lit and all people awkwardly find themselves staring at each other, and a performer tries to measure the distance / boundary between the body of the performer themself and the audience with the assertion 'for politics the body must appear', until finally the viewing situation is then hacked again by a stretch of plastic textile material which is stretched, rolled up, aligned on the floor. before finally the room was opened up again, so that the vast space reemerged.

the performers then began to play what is called measuring the room with the body, choosing one limb to relate to the architectural angle, knees, ankles, arms or fingers. this relationship is carried out as effectively as possible and does not provide opportunities for dramatization or body decoration. the body is treated like a field / line that actively communicates with the room. then, each of the performers make body-contact, which gives a division of who hears and who speaks. a moving body is a body that speaks, and a body that rests on / strengths the body that is speaking, functions to listen. body contact, which is initially carried out in pairs, then moves into one solid, becomes an odd body mass. before finally it becomes a choir that reads the text from sukarno's speech he held when opening the 1955 asian-african conference. then slowly one by one the indonesian performers murmured with a variety of voices - excerpts of dialogue or voices that faintly came from their memories when they watching films from PFN productions, some who watched 'serangan fajar', 'unyil' and 'g3os' - united with sukarno's speech. this voice then moves towards the front, along with the body which is also together going forward. before then finally one by one the body hummed a deep throat with the letters a, o, u, a, e, which ended with a squeaky ‘i’ that felt like hanging between the top of the head and the ceiling of the room. the performers then stand at their point and begin to become what is called the 'living archive', which meant that we talked about some story that is important in our lives. i for example talked about the incident of stealing money from a grandmother's wallet that was kept in a closet, to buy the first four music cassettes I owned.

karlina supelli in the artist talk session mentioned that what is referred to as 'living archive' in claudia bosse's term, as 'underside of history' or history under history - which i can interpret in the drama structure of the last IDEAL PARADISE took place in the final scene which extracts the great histories that are ranked first: what can be interpreted as history outside the body (nation, social politics) which ultimately leads to the stories that are in the body itself, or the body's own history, in the mother language karlina supelli is: 'transcending individual mode'. another practice that is interesting to me - besides its installation which is indeed a kind of representation of the archival situation regarding terrorism or colonialism - is the use of the body medium as an artistic method, its statement about the body precisely as a political medium - which does not state anything outside the body, the political body which does not tell about something, 'dance its not about refugees' but the body itself. claudia's language is 'performance as a particular encounter of body in space' that the body becomes a practice of sharing, where 'everybody is situated', and what she calls a radical meeting is 'we are in here, as our body'. another technique for example is by measuring the body with the room, that the body medium is also a composition that can be integrated with architectural / room dimensions.

dramaturgy ideas and dramaturgy forms
my ideas of dramaturgy that i conducted concerning the directing from claudia gave me ways to map ideas, from the large / broad nature, related to conflict or world history, which appeared to be crossed and out of harmony, into one body of ideas which are not parallel, but can work as an odd offer. claudia compiled the idea of war and conflict in a photo and video file archive which was arranged in the installation room, photos of the massacre as well as many political coups around the world, and side by side with materials made of carpets and plastics, which were bound like abductees are transported into cars.

i also experienced these strange body shapes with fellow performers, to avoid the construction of beautiful dance, but to put my body with other bodies as much as possible, in one body choreography - which restores basic functions such as: leaning, holding weights, relaxing the body, strengthening the shoulders - with the aim of forming a body that is not aimed at form patterns, but a body that was clear from the start - a body that aims to exchange positions with other bodies, i experience what is called a social body through sharing bodies.

riyhadhus shalihin is an artist, researcher and theater-author who was one of the performers of the last IDEAL PARADISE jakarta. theatrale produktion und rezeption