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Dream Express: Personalized History of Mysticism

Jul 2 - Oct 15, 2023

Jompet Kuswidananto

Tirtodipuran Link Building A

Dream Express: Personalized History of Mysticism

1 Dream Express is the title of the 1980s international pop compilation cassette released by Atlantic Records Indonesia which connects Jompet Kuswidananto with his memories of that time. These fragments of memories and personal narrative were presented by Jompet Kuswidananto in various forms throughout the exhibition. On the other hand, the phrase 'Dream Express' presents nostalgia for positivism—an express route toward one’s goals.

2 However, pay attention to the artist’s choice of using the word “personalized" instead of "personal". The suffix "-ized" activates the word “personal” into a verb. It refers to an active attempt to make something (in this case history) custom-made for a particular person. The word signifies an effort to be actively involved, to make it a benchmark, as well as a symbol of ownership of personal and special micro connections.

3 Beyond merely presenting a personal narrative, personalized history has actively sought to claim history out of the canon and adapt it to the needs of the individual, regardless of the size and legitimacy of the power. This attempt to personalize history is hardly new, despite the fact that it is usually done by the rulers themselves. In this exhibition, Jompet explored his personal relationship with power—the state, the church, and colonialism. He stitched together patches of non-archival historical clues through nostalgia, trauma, dreams, alternative narratives, and transcendental experiences, of the personal and the collective. The question remains, who has the right to present a personalized version of history amidst the fragility of one’s memory? Colonialism encourages the process of internalization and personalization of history as well as the renewal of spiritual values in the effort to develop an antithesis to the norms imposed generally by power. This process of internalization has historically been the root of the tradition of resistance to power.

4 In this exhibition, mysticism specifically refers to the wave of spiritual and religious beliefs that catalyze rebellion. The exhibition presents traces of disobedience; from apocalyptic narratives, crafting of spiritual objects, pilgrimages as well as veneration of the spirits of a dissident, to rituals and processes of trance. Sartono explained in his book the recurring pattern of rebellion in Java in the 19th and early 20th centuries that began with religious movements as manifestations of mysticism in the form of messianism, Ratu Adil, nativism, prophethood, and others. This piece of micro-history has been the pattern that fueled revolutionary movements since the days of colonialism. Generally, it peaks when social pressures and anxieties arise. It has a repetitive, dramatic, and ephemeral character. Belief in this mysticism gives the illusion of invincibility and struggle, enhancing the possibility of mass aggression during a social uprising. On the other hand, mysticism is often employed by leaders to personalize their history and legitimize their holiness by creating the illusion of special connection and closeness to God/prophets/holy spirits/ universe. Source: Sartono Kartodirdjo, Ratu Adil (Jakarta: Pustaka Sinar Harapan, 1992).


Exhibition View


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