Part of the
exhibition

In the Presence of Absence proposals for the museum collection

5 Sep 2020 until 31 Jan 2021

Artist Page — 2 Sep 2020

In the Presence of Absence, the bi-annual show of proposals for the museum collection, presents 23 artists (collectives). This artist page includes a text on the work and an artist contribution.

Marni (or Sumarni) was born in a small village in East Java. In search of a better life, she moves to Surabaya to work as a housekeeper for a tycoon, who lives in an elegant residence built with a touch of Amsterdam School style. Marni lives securely in this house during a politically turbulent period, serving the tycoon’s family for many years, and begins a complex love affair with a Japanese army soldier. Since her childhood, Marni has unconsciously possessed supernatural powers that influence her sense of materials, allowing her to perceive different realities of space around her body.” 

Marni is the protagonist in a short historical fiction by Leonardiansyah Allenda, set in Indonesia from 1940 to the 1970s. This was a tumultuous period that saw first the transition from Dutch to Japanese occupation, and then the emergence of communism, rooted in Western socialist ideology and which had been disseminated to Indonesia by the Dutch communist Henk Sneevliet. This movement led to the 1965 genocide in Indonesia.

With his writing, Allenda examines how this Dutch and Western ideology failed in practice, causing ethnic segregation and creating a new form of oppression after Indonesian independence. He is interested in how these political ideologies transformed and traveled together with the emergence of the Amsterdam School: the aesthetic carried some influences from Indonesian tradition to the Netherlands with Eduard Cuypers and traveled back to Indonesia with Liem Bwan Tjie after his studies at Delft University and work for Michel de Klerk.

Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Leonardiansyah Allenda’s “Chapter 6: Marni,” 2020.
Illustration by Haitham Haddad after Leonardiansyah Allenda’s “Chapter 6: Marni,” 2020.

Chapter 6: Marni (2020) is an installation consisting of a soundscape, video, hanging sculptures, tables, and textiles, enclosed by golden walls. In this work, Allenda employs the fictional body of Marni to transform layers of narrations into spatial experience. The narrative itself complicates social history, architecture, and belief systems. The atmosphere and elements of the installation are a reflection of Marni's subconscious realm, and her perceptual conflict of having grown up in a belief system with deep, spiritual roots in nature and now spending her daily life inside a constructed Amsterdam School-style interior, one that gestures superficially to that mysticism and confronts her with elements – like wood – that have been ripped from their natural contexts.  

In his artistic practice, Leonardiansyah Allenda (b. 1984) focuses on researching the perception of body and space. He is interested in how such notions interweave with fiction, and subjects such as social history. Allenda was a resident artist at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam (2016-2017). His work has been shown at the National Museum of Fine Art in Taichung, the Kathmandu Triennale, the 2015 Jakarta Biennale, and Cemeti Art House in Yogyakarta.

Artist Contribution

Illustration of “Chapter 6: Marni,” interior atmosphere, by Leonardiansyah Allenda.
Illustration of “Chapter 6: Marni,” interior atmosphere, by Leonardiansyah Allenda.
Illustration of “Chapter 6: Marni,” interior atmosphere, by Leonardiansyah Allenda.
Illustration of “Chapter 6: Marni,” interior atmosphere, by Leonardiansyah Allenda.
Illustration of “Chapter 6: Marni,” interior atmosphere, by Leonardiansyah Allenda.
Illustration of “Chapter 6: Marni,” interior atmosphere, by Leonardiansyah Allenda.