Articles on Enrico

Articles Concerning Enrico Soekarno

Asylum For The Darkness

A journey often leads to soul-searching. It sets out an abstract in the form of a spiritual experience that builds a character. We can sense the misery, the wisdom of the people and their culture in an engine roar. We can get a whiff of the land of pathways in a village or the asphaltic scent that stinks while uncloaking mysteries, as we contemplate on the fast-moving glimpses that we look over the vehicle window we are riding in. Velocity creates an artificial view as it constantly changes the visual of the nature whereas we catch sight of a line of dried-out trees and farmers’ huts with yellowish thatched-roof. If you flinch while brushing off your imagination and feel the sudden urge to return home, then you are just taking a trip, not having a journey as implied in ‘tetirah’ (Javanese: to take a long or spiritual journey to heal body and soul).

The drawing collection by Enrico Soekarno reveals a process of rewriting his soul-searching journeys. Let us recall a memory from a certain period. Perhaps there is a remembrance in the reflected spectrum of a pyramid? Or at the site of ancient stones that turned yellow by the reflection of the sun’s rays at Ende bay? Is it on the roofs of Prague and its labyrinth in which Kafka was trapped? Or in a piece of Pram’s Calon Arang at the shrine of Betari Durga, as well as in the frame of the four generals who pray underneath a skull-studded black beret? Perhaps they are saying hypocrisy prayers as it is the nature of this nation, while an apology is taboo to say.

When we recall the fading sign on the side of Will Rogers Highway, a highway that cuts right through the heart of Uncle Sam, we might have this mental picture of the voice of Carmen McRae serenading drivers passing that famous Rue 66, possibly also drivers of tourist transportation bypassing on the smooth concrete road of Potala that was build to abolish the Tibetan culture and its nation. On the land of the monks, hanging a Dalai Lama figurine from the rear-view mirror could be taken for an act of treason. May be we should stop for a while at an oasis, in a hinterland nowhere to find on the provincial road map, except for a marker in the form of a white milestone with the number 50 on it, a number painted with black paint on a khaki sign board.

Turning 50 is crossing the half century milestone. To that end, Enrico gives meaning to road signs as symbols and signs of his adventurous works of art that have become the subjectivity of his life. So many memories cling to names and events. As an autodidact artist, Enrico realizes that the source of the whole inspiration originated from a truly personal spiritual odyssey; from a cultural journey, indelible books, liberating music, soul-awakening films, beloved ones, as well as valuable adolescent relationships.

Having completed high school in Sydney, Enrico went on a journey through Northern Europe. He went through places, streets, time and space; starting from Denmark, going down to the south until he arrived in Italy. In Rome, Enrico decided to join Accademia di Belle Arti (1985 – 1986). At the Faculty of Arts, Enrico brushed up his skills by doing a lot more than just drawing and etching tasks. Enrico then returned to Indonesia and spent about a year living in Padang Tegal, Ubud, before he came back to Jakarta and organized a collective exhibition at Mitra Budaya in 1988.

Unlike literature, which is attractively playful with words, drawing is a suave persuasion. We may be captured by the aesthetics of lines and perspective dimension. When we take a further look and let our feelings involved just like being buried in words, subsequently the provocation of every drawing artist almost always able to capture the gaze of its viewers. When we give in to the visually presented epos, we slowly find ourselves in a solemn passage of time. We would eventually sense that a fine drawing is an image that is able to engage other people’s subjectivity on our work.

The pen-scratches slowly form an atmosphere projecting the mind of the artist. The pitch-black-inked image has now saturated the white paper in front of him. The face of a one-eyed man from Larantuka gives a sturdy look, staring at the rough sea. In the one eye he’s left with, we see vengeance as well as a longing for love. We grasp darkness out of it. The details in the lines of Enrico’s drawing seem to be beckoning and drawing us towards the essence of his stories, stories in images that subconsciously lead us to tracing the long labyrinth of life.

On another side, we could also sense the insane brutality the Khmer Rouge regime did to its people. Led by Pol Pot, a pro-Mao communist, they slew 3 million lives within less than five years. They executed those who came from middle class society that refused to join the brutal regime. Extreme-right and extreme-left are as rotten as the other; one denying God while the other practicing idolatry and invoking terror for their own pleasure.

In the darkness of the creepy drawing of Tuol Sleng, we still can see the shady overgrown frangipani trees. Those trees became a background of rows of stoneless graves of the victims during the dreadful reign of Pol Pot. Tuol Sleng, which means “Hill of the Poisonous Tress” or “Strychnine Hill” in Khmer language, is a former high school building which was transformed into the most ferocious concentration camp throughout the entire modern human history. It is almost as if the metallic pungency smell of the victim’s blood still fills out all the space at the place which now is known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. Nevertheless, the human slaughterhouse holds a paradoxical memory for Enrico, for love is certainly capable of finding its own way in the midst of a place as hell as Tuol Sleng. He found the love of his life whom he built a family with.

Enrico has been drawing sketches and training his drawing skills since he was very young. He trained himself by drawing whatever he saw. However, Enrico has a huge interest in the landscape works of Van Gough, especially of which during the era when the Dutch eccentric painter was living in Ouvres-Sur-Oise, situated 30km north from Paris, where he ended his own life at one of the corners of a cramped room in Ravoux Inn in 1890. Enrico started to learn about arts from his grandfather and mother. They were the ones who opened the gate to knowledge, not merely arts. Enrico got accustomed to reading, even on the darkest days during his adolescence.

In his 6th grade, Enrico’s grandfather gave him a book which he took from his own personal library. It was a first-edition shabby book which gave him a strong influence growing up towards maturity. The book, published by Balai Pustaka in 1961, was Calon Arang; a work by one of the most celebrated men of letters in the country, Pramoedya Ananta Toer. From the well-defined characters, Enrico learned about literature and the dark reality of history which became the mise-en-scène of Pram’s works later on. Eventually, Enrico had a chance to collaborate with Pram in the making of the cover and illustration of a number of Pram’s books, including Calon Arang which was republished after Pram was freed from Pulau Buru.

The second book Enrico got was a book that had become a kind of bible to rockers and the flower generation in the 60’s. In addition, the author died just two months after the Woodstock Festival, which was quite an influence to the global pop culture in the era. It was a three-day peace and music festival held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, mid August 1969. Most of the performing artists at Woodstock Festival were fans of the author’s. It is “On the Road”, a travel memoir of a legendary beat writer, Jack Kerouac, first published by Viking Press in 1957.

This book made Kerouac a representative of the young generation in the entire world and provoked them to become antiestablishmentarians. It is as if soul-searching found its road map. The interpretation of an odyssey in “On The Road” refers to one of its quotes, “the best teacher is experience”. Beatles took a trip to India, Stones traveled to the hinterlands in Marrakesh – North Africa, Bob Dylan roamed the streets that inspired the extraordinary works of a folk music legend, Woody Guthrie, and a famed novelist, John Steinbeck.

“On the Road” is a life-sign inspired by gospels of prophets as implied in ancient holy books, and obviously by Siddh?rtha Gautama, whose teachings Kerouac adopted until the death angel came for him. In his short life, Kerouac was highly influenced by his best friend, William S. Burroughs, author of “Naked Lunch”, a novel which later on was adapted into a movie by a Canadian director, David Cronenberg. Out of its scene fragments, Enrico projected his own interpretations into Kafka High, and a portrait of Burroughs, the godfather of junk, in Interzone: Nothing is True, Everything is Permitted.

These two interpretations are also found in the movie adaptation of “On the Road” by a Brazilian director, Walter Salles (2012). It is a story of three friends who embark on the road; Sal Paradise, as the alter ego of young Kerouac, Dean Moriarty as Neal Cassady, and his wife, Marylou as LuAnne Henderson. Two other beatnik pioneer characters also liven up this indie movie; Carlo Marx as Allen Ginsberg and Old Bull Lee as the author William S. Burroughs.

It therefore brought us to a conclusion that a destination in a journey is merely just a vehicle. It is not a final goal. The process of self-identity reconstruction is the main reason and purpose of an odyssey, where an identity is born from bits and pieces of the spiritual journey. While the chauffeur is taking the wheel of time, then it is the right moment to contemplate; widely seek to find one single answer to the mystery of the universe. Perhaps it is revealed in Enrico’s scratches in From Safety to Where?

They are travelling to where the wind blows, overlooking the dots on the map towards the skyline. The horizon slowly disappears, leaving the fading road signs where a mirage welcomes the empty souls. During that journey, Kerouac is reaching "high" at the back seat, enjoying a hand job Lu Anne is giving him, at the same time to Neal, her husband who is driving. He is closing his eyes on the passenger seat of the old and dusty 1949 Hudson Commodore.

Sex & drugs & rock ‘n’ roll became the slogan of the generation in that era. It was a motto stating a resistance to the Vietnam War and military junta’s crimes in developing countries, including Indonesia. Enrico recalled when he was wandering through the Australian desert and the snow-covered Blue Continent. The journey introduced him to his self-identity. "On the Road" itself came to an end without an identity and lost its charm as a movie. Not only it failed to interpret the quest in Valhalla smoke and Nirvana acid of the anti-establishment beat generation who loathed capitalism, but it also fell short in describing the darkest reality of civilization of human hypocrisy.

We know that Kerouac was a phenomenon to the 60’s generation by reason of his works and lifestyle. He was an underground celebrity to artists, humanists, and rockers, whose renaissance took place during that period. There was no important super group who was not influenced by Kerouac; namely The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Pink Floyd. Even The Doors would have never existed without Kerouac. He was the man behind it all who brought about the Hippie movement with its "flower children".

The Salles, who sophisticatedly directed "Diarios de Motocicleta – the Motorcycle Diaries" (20014), was a different Salles. The South American/Iberian blood that runs through his veins is the cultural groundwork he managed to project in a Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal (made his acting debut in Amores Perros, directed by Alejandro Iñárritu), who played young Che Guevara, a medical student in Universidad de Buenos Aires taking an end-semester break in 1952.

Taking a vacation, when he was 23, Che invited his best friend, Alberto Granado Jimenéz (Rodrigo de la Serna), a biochemist student who was 29, to join him in a journey; rambling the streets in hinterlands from South America to the North. The traversing of 8,000 km of the snowy road from the foot of Andes all the way to the wild Amazon portrays the memoir of which Kerouac began to write in "On the Road" in 1951. This odyssey is reflected in the notes of a journey of Che (Notas de Viaje) and Alberto Granado (Con el Che por Sudamérica) a year later.

Che was radicalized by the poverty, leper colony, and the atrocity of capitalism he witnessed, and that caused the resistance to self- establishment for these two young men. It was a journey which made Che choose a life idealism as a revolutionary; to free the grass roots from the capitalist exploitation. Some of Enrico’s works reflectively display similar atrociousness, particularly in his drawing series on poverty in Nusa Tenggara Timur, insurgency in Timor Leste, oppression of Tibetans, militarism in Indonesia, and the collapse of Indonesian diversity.

Soul-depicting needs more than just relying on references, it takes a great deal of empirical understanding of cultural characteristics. What if “On the Road” were put in the hands of an indie director like Jim Jarmusch (Dead Man), or a nomadic-journeyer-cineaste, Wim Wenders (Paris Texas)? To both, a scene could be an absurd wandering full of mysteries. In a desert and on a rocky road, ambience and score become a light unto the soul, just like black-inked scratches across the naked sky. The image might go very well with Tom Waits’ compositions in Jarmusch’s movies, blended with a touch of Ry Cooder’s guitar sliding which has scored many soundtracks of solitaire and mysterious scenes of Wenders’ films.

Road movie is a cult, in such a way that an artist chooses drawing as a medium of expression. In contemplating, we get ravished by the scenic beauty or by mankind destroying it; as if imagination is blowing a beautiful symphony to the mind and opens the eyes of the soul whence Enrico found an oasis to his works of art. It is a connecting cycle amidst taste and imagination, integrity and commitment, as well as existence of civilization. The dusk is falling in Lhasa, a trace of light from the spectrum of color is still reflected in the presumptuousness of humankind and in a piece of art with a title Forbidden Portrait.

Oscar Motuloh

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