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The game ends when the screen flashes: Insert More Coins. The game is, however, being played on the dangerous streets of Indonesia. And the artist Rizki R. Utama (oQ), weaves his work through the city, with the metropolis as backdrop and subject for his photographic and video experiments. A member of the artists’ group and alternative space Buton Kultur 21 in Bandung, Utama has created amusing and playful artworks with pointed allusions to Indonesia’s way of life.
In the video projection, Me vs The Angkots (2006), Utama has produced a video that has been the fantasy of irate drivers the world over. Without pushing it to the imaginable violence that the video brings to mind, it allows us to enter that space of seeing the chaos of street traffic as a game where we drive as daredevils and receive points for doing so. Transportation in Indonesia is a jumble of cars, motorcycles, becaks (cycle rickshaws) and angkots (a minibus/taxi, which takes in several passengers). Angkots, like becaks, can be flagged at any point and stop anywhere at the passenger’s request.
The video shows a split screen. The game is between a motor bike (driven by the artist) versus an angkot driver. The rules are hazy, if there are any rules at all; and the destination is unknown, except perhaps to reach the game’s next level. Each vehicle races through the city at frightening speeds, expertly dodging everything that crosses their paths and literally weaving their way through packed traffic and intersections. Horns are pressed at every sign of insolence from the world outside, and points are scored and bonuses received. Conversations are heard, money passes hands, and the trip to nowhere and everywhere continues. The video, patterned after a 1980s arcade game, is hysterically amusing, but at the same time sobering. To be so distanced from the hair-raising navigation of roads that is part of daily life in many cities should be taken as both a privilege and a luxury.
Independent curator and writer, working between Manila and Singapore. Formerly curator at the Singapore Art Museum and the Lopez Museum in Manila. Co-curator of the 2nd Singapore Biennale 2008.
Me vs The Angkots. 2006
Single channel video