Sunday, April 29, 2007

Who sees

If you are lucky enough not to be born in a kampung in one of the mega cities in Indonesia do you have then a reason to go into a kampung? Perhaps not. But at the same time there is also no reason to be afraid of those who live in a kampung.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Stories from the city, Stories from you

Last Thursday I took again a long walk around Bandung starting at Jalan Nias to Ciroyom station and back. I also returned to the kampung (inner city settlement) nearby the Ciroyom train station I visited a few weeks ago. I circled around the kampung, talked to a lot of people, photographed many as well, some didn’t want to, some because they were shy, but most people thought it was fun to pose. Jokes were made about me – the sweating mister. And they were asking one and another what I was doing in their neighborhood. I heard the word arsip a dozen or so times, only when I returned at the campus I realized the meaning of this word: archives, files. And indeed, in a way I am recording a tiny bit of how people live at this place where soon another mall will be constructed (and the word goes that Soeharto's daughter has a hand in this). I am an archivist, a filing clerk.

Inner City Ladies

The lady in the first picture invited me to come into her small home, so upon entering I had to take my muddy shoes off (it had rained all night), she wanted to be photographed next to her TV (and inside the TV was the only source of light, but her husband didn't need any light, he is unfortunately blind).

Urban Youth

It was the second time I met the kid in the first picture, and he asked to be photographed once more, so I did.

On the road


Indonesians have something with uniforms: the kids have to wear a uniform from primary school until senior high school (girls wear skirts and boys trousers); university students have jackets in the color of their university (University of Indonesia students have yellow jackets, just as Golkar, the political party that backed former dictator Soeharto); security and parking lot guards go in orange or blue; the military, police, and civil servants (their education is militaristic in outlook as well) wear blue, brown or green (civil servants have to wear batik at Fridays ); but office employees sometimes wear uniforms as well (I know of one example that the employees at a notary office asked their boss for uniforms).

Enjoying smoke

Soccer=War (?), part II

Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) has an aesthetic approach to history; art and spectacle are important in cultures. Huizinga defines play in Homo Ludens (in my translation) as “a voluntary act or activity, which occurs according to voluntary accepted but binding rules within preset boundaries of space and time, with play itself as reason [i.e. a game is not played for extrinsic utility], accompanied with a feeling of excitement and joy, and with a sense of ‘being different’ than ‘real life’.” Soccer, war and religion can be seen, according to Huizinga, as forms of playing (the movie '300' after Frank Miller's comic book is a depiction of a ludic battle, i.e. courage depends on certain rules of the game and cowardice is then seen as cheating). When the boneks (fanatic soccer supporters) go around Bandung to voice their happiness with a Persib (Persatuan Sepakbola Indonesia Bandung) win, they wear the color blue to show their closeness to this Bandung soccer club.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In and Out

Some days ago I went on a road trip – an inner city road trip though. From my place in Grogol, West Jakarta, to Utan Kayu, East Jakarta, and back it took me more than six hours. And only to pick up a book – On Photography by Susan Sontag (on my way back I finished half the book). Heavy rains were pouring down. Motor cyclists were seeking shelter under flyovers, leaving only a single lane for cars and buses, causing major congestion all around this mega city. The good thing of traveling by bus is that there is always live music and many kinds of snacks and drinks available. Often I am warned against taking the bus, supposedly because of the many pickpockets, so far so good I must say (and I feel safer here than in Amsterdam). And the funny thing is that the ones who warn me do actually not use public transportation (and they make it sound like as if all poor can be thieves, that being poor is already considered an immorality, because in a meritocratic society everyone is supposed to have an equal chance to become rich, the rich want that their wealth is justified gathered through hard labor and being poor is then due idleness).

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Philosopher in the Raw

This is a strange portrait. The person portrayed seems to sink. He is standing against a blackboard, which has been used intensively. Some words are still readable. And perhaps there lies the key in why the photographer decided to portray this person in this awkward fashion (or maybe he didn’t know any better…). The word ‘WC’ is readable but doesn’t seem to make too much sense. The word that might be important in relation to the one portrayed is ‘raw’. And the one portrayed is Ludwig Wittgenstein, writer of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (written in the WWI trenches and it functioned as his dissertation but he claimed that his own promoters, Bertrand Russell (who wrote an introduction to the book so it could find a publisher) and G.E. Moore (who suggested the title), did not understand the moral scope of the book) and Philosophische Untersuchungen (just as any other work published posthumously because Wittgenstein could not be satisfied with his own work). Derek Jarman made a movie on Wittgenstein, which shows rather than explains the struggles Wittgenstein put himself through (not just with logics, also with his sexuality).

Monday, April 9, 2007


This is Garry Winogrand’s fixture of appearances at the Hollywood Boulevard into a composition. Compose comes etymologically from the Latin poneo, ponere, i.e. to place or to put (something, someplace) and com, i.e. together.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Carpe Diem

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”
Susan Sontag, On Photography (p15)

The photo above is made by Craigie Horsfield (1949 born in Cambridge). He prints his pictures long after they were taken to question our memory of the past. And he prints his pictures very large to build monuments for that past.

And from memento mori it is only a small leap to joie de vivre.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Shoot to Kill

"The Yashica [...] is the spaceage camera your family will love. Take beautiful pictures day or night. Automatically. Without any nonsense. Just aim, focus and shoot. The [Yashica's] computer brain and electronic shutter will do the rest."

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Omelets and Modernization

In terms of illegal settlement we have to think first before we answer the question what areas should be evicted to make the city as a whole more livable. It seems an easy question. Of course, we should agree that those make-shift settlements should go. These settlements are the sour spots of every city, aesthetically speaking. But when it is a question of illegal settlement then we also should ask whether the owners of those high-rise apartment buildings and mushrooming malls (for example, the combined space of malls in Jakarta tripled from 1997 to 2005 to 4.5 million square meters) have the right to remain if they occupy space illegally? Metaphors are used to increase understanding of a situation or development. To explain the point of modernization this saying is used: one cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs. The omelet is then the culinary equivalent for the fruits of modernization. But we should not forget, though, that those eggs can be real people. People with voices, faces, aspirations, hopes and worries very much like are own.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Squatters and a Shopping Mall

Legal anthropologist Gustaaf Reerink told me that the land of the kampung/slum I wrote about the day before yesterday is owned by P.T. KAI (the national railway company, recently a bill was passed to end its monopoly). And the squatters are now being evicted so a new hospital and shopping mall can be built on this site, which is a strange place, because a few hundred meters back the mall Paskal Hyper Square just opened its doors (but perhaps economic reasons are not the only reasons to build a mall).

Sunday, April 1, 2007

More inner city stories

The wall is photographed in the same area of the kampung/slum I described yesterday, the two portraits on the other hand are made a mere hundred meters further. On this side of the railway tracks the kampung is older and cleaner.