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An Open Letter From Melati Suryodarmo

Author: scenestr 2015-09-01

Performance artist, Melati Suryodarmo is internationally renowned for producing works which blend physical presence and visual art.

Sometimes called 'Indonesia's maverick performance artist', Melati explores issues of identity and the relationship between the human body and the environment it inhabits.
As part of Adelaide Festival Centre's OzAsia Festival this year, Melati will be presenting a collection of her live performance works and video artworks.

Here, Melati Suryodarmo pens an open letter about her work and the premiere of her new performance piece, '24, 901 Miles'.

It was twenty one years ago, when I carried my suitcase and decided to leave my country for Europe. I was only wearing summer clothing when I arrived in Frankfurt’s early March frost. People were staring at me, maybe because I was wearing the wrong clothing, or maybe because I looked at everything with my staring eyes. I smiled to everybody staring at me, but they pretended they could not see me.
I took a train that was a hundred times more fancy than my family living room at home. The smell of the carriage was as cold as the color of the carpet. Everything was designed geometrically with almost no curve to be seen.

I tried to keep my body calm, although my heart was hammering three times faster than usual. Of course there was a little fear, but then I grabbed the handle of my handbag a little tighter. I tried to sit correctly like everybody did there. But then a mixture of feelings poured down over my face like water. I suddenly realized, although it was a long way to get there and I had just arrived, I already missed my home.

It took me several years to understand how to use a language which is not my mother tongue, and how to make people understand what I wanted to say by using their language. There were many misunderstandings and it took time for me to find a way to express my thoughts the way I wanted to.

One day, after so long, I arrived at a point where I felt I had found a language that didn’t need any words or belong to any defined culture. I found myself in a shelter, which constantly moved together with the constant changing of my body. This shelter was not a house, nor a home, but rather it moved with me from one journey to another journey. I had begun to believe that my body was a shelter, and at the same time, a container for memories I didn’t need to write down in my diary.

As a shelter, my body keeps all the hidden paths of history, all the genetics as well as cultural baggage. It is also resource of emotional energy, synchronizing the happenings of day to day life. This is why I love to do performance art, which does not need acting, but a true doing, which puts mind and the body into one entity with time and space, and where text is fluid within.

For the OzAsia Festival, I am very happy to be able to share some parts of my journey, and perhaps my shelter for people in Australia in the form of documentation of my previous performance and video works. I also look forward to the world premiere of 24, 901 Miles, my performance work which is inspired by themes of the cyclical journey to build up our own shelter wherever we arrive.

Melati Suryodarmo

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