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Heri Dono: Voyage - Trokomod

National Pavilion of Indonesia at the 56th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia, 2015. Curatorial text by Carla Bianpoen, and photos of the work.
Sep 2015

From the early beginning of his artistic engagement, Heri Dono has consistently aspired to set right what he thought was wrong. For Heri, art is not just about exploring the beauty or the aesthetic but to inform people of things often unseen or hidden behind the masks of time. "Artists have a moral responsibility to add to the global conversation, and inspire people with awareness of what is going on in their environment and in the world at large."

In the Indonesia pavilion which is themed "Voyage", Heri Dono presents a giant structure likening a archaic creature rising up to the future. A fusion of the Trojan Horse and the Indonesian Komodo dragon (dubbed Trokomod), this amphibious hybrid "animal" of 7.5 x 3 x 3.5 meters encompasses his vision for a world where East and West merge. With this "vehicle" Heri Dono examines the actual state of the world, at the same time exploring his place and the country's in the global constellation of nations. "Indonesia has for most of the time been a blank spot on the world map," he asserts, "now is the time to come forward". With this he wants to show another way of asserting power.
While the archaic appearance of Trokomod may be frightful, the interior presents a soft power using material like rattan, and a ceiling covered with a canvas on which batik symbols of all religions denote the wish for peaceful religious pluralism. Trokomod's voyaging through history and plying the oceans between cultures is the culmination of Heri Dono's critical views about global and local cultures, about political, geopolitical and social situations at home and in the world, and about Western hegemonies that he used to reveal with a lot of humor and a touch of human benevolence. Trokomod, however has added an etchy touch.

An important part of the work is Heri Dono's ethnographic imaging. Contrary to a traditional display in an ethnographic museum which traditionally displays exotic cultures from a Western point of gaze, Heri Dono switches roles showing Western icons as we perceive them from the other part of the world. This follows his belief that it's an artist's moral responsibilty to inspire people with awareness of what is going on in the world and to balance the global conversation.

From the outside visitors can peep through cannon-shaped telescopes to see artifacts and images of important cultural significance that is perceived to have marked the Western world. Inside the 'animal' one can operate the periscope showing selected markers of Indonesian and Eastern significance while a video shows images of the past, present and the future.

An installation of traditional vessels of the past that mutated in the course of time ("Perahu Arwah" or Spirit Boats) accompany Trokomod. Evoking Indonesia's maritime identity, they are reminiscent of angel-like shapes with halos and kinetic flapping wings suggestive of peddles.

For more information, please see:
- indonesiavenice.com, official website
- Indonesia in Venice 2015, UiU Special

© Text: Carla Bianpoen

National Pavilion of Indonesia
Venice Biennale 2015
56th International Art Exhibition
9 May - 22 November 2015

Arsenale, Tese Cinquecentesche

Sapta Nirwandar

Deputy Commissioner:
Soedarmadji JH Damais

Curatorial Team:
Carla Bianpoen, Restu Imansari Kusumaningrum, Asmudjo Jono Irianto

Bumi Purnati Indonesia
Change Performing Arts

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