Love Me or Die
As one of Indonesia’s most provocative and engaging artists, Entang Wiharso’s (featured in Habitus 22, on sale December 19) paintings and installations often cast a critical eye on international politics and cultural prejudices. But, as Philippa Daly discovers, underneath these wider socio-political themes, his projects ultimately speak of deep personal experiences and vulnerabilities
Entang Wiharso’s artworks are not for the faint hearted. From fully consummating acts of sex or violence, to erect phalluses and naked limbs, his representation of supernumerary bodies dangling aimlessly, some of them defensively wielding blades, convey a confused realism of deformation rarely seen in such explicit and graphic forms.
Untold Story: Floating Island, 2012; acrylic on canvas
But these crushing forms are not only screams of distortion but are also an invitation, an almost masochistic solicitation, which Wiharso only subtly hints at. “I want people to respond to my content, to question it,” says Wiharso, “I want the work to make them think about their own conditions, to question the reality we live in.”
Your Power is Mine (Comic Book Series), 2009; aluminium, car paint, screws
“I seek only to depict the condition of humans who are often divided by complex, multi-layered political, ethnic, racial and religious systems,” continues Wiharso. To him, creating work is a way of understanding the human condition, of heightening our ability to perceive, feel and understand human problems like love, hate, fanaticism, religion, and ideology. In this regard, Wiharso sees more truth in deformation and distortion than in accurate accounts of reality: through his deliberate use and manipulation of scale, light and human forms, he underscores that reality is never fixed, that our reality is incomplete.
Beyond American Dreams, 2011; aluminium cast
It is a reality that speaks of deeply entangled histories, and entangled stories that have been rendered possible. “I’m interested in trying to go much further back along the timeline, to trace events (small actions) to a historical and geological history that we feel we no longer know.” In forcing the viewer to strain, to see through the forms belied by shadow and light, Wiharso invites us to ‘see’ more, to access truths beyond the surface. Underlying meanings are exposed, adding a further component to the complex artistic language of his work.
Temple of Hope Hit by a Bus, 2011; cast aluminium, lava stone, resin, thread
But beyond these micro-stories is Wiharso himself, positioned as both the story and storyteller – the storyteller embedded in the story. The meanings exposed throughout his artworks are not only necessarily ours, but also Wiharso’s who has carefully integrated the micro-politics of his personal life with the macro-politics of a nation. Confronting the nation’s prejudices in part also means confronting the world’s view of him, mainly the perceptions some possess of Wiharso as a Muslim married to a Western woman. “My Indonesian-ness will always be inside me,” says Wiharso, “and when I work and exhibit in different places around the world, this identity will always be in play.”
Temple of Hope Hit by a Bus, 2011
“However, my time spent in the West has also allowed me to see my culture more clearly, to question and understand it,” continues Wiharso, “it has made me committed to create a dialogue with Western culture.” The distorted and dismembered bodies also become entangled in Wiharso’s story, in Wiharso’s personal narrative. Their unravelling and confusion is also his, their elements seem to end and begin with his dreams, as he brings his world into being.
Entang Wiharso’s artworks were featured in Habitus 22. This issue on sale 19 December, 2013.
Entang Wiharso is represented by ARNDT Gallery