Play, Mess, and imagination all touch within the frames of Leonard Suryajaya. There are exquisite disruptions of patterns and people. fingertips buzzing, the colorful leaves of plastics and fruits, and mouths almost always stuffed with something extraterrestrial. Suryajaya photographs, films, and makes art of something equally unexpected, as it is familiar and ancestral. False Idol explores themes of camaraderie and theatre, fleeing a homeland and putting down roots. A Chinese-Indonesian immigrant, Suryajaya is ready for powers and authorities that want to question the legitimacy of his every last morsel. "I'm going to make this work over the course of my Greencard application. I want to use this body of work as a way to document, reimagine, and expose that process".
Suryajaya is possessed by navigating respect with pushiness. the rules of government and patriarchy are in place to watch and pry; the works of False Idol fight back with astute dexterity. Why simplify anything? In these works there is bargaining and resilience. The world that lurks inside Suryajaya's frames seems both informed by an established visual history as much as it seeks to find a new place in the future on a planet not too dissimilar from this one. Or perhaps that place is still Earth, one where limitations have been outsmarted. Where the bizarre, unexpected, and queer can co-mingle and couple.
Suryajaya stands in the middle of streets, collecting, gathering, thinking, and finding all these simple things so they can be exposed for how outlandish they are capable of being. Our world no longer has to be what we've come to expect of its we're better than that, this world deserves better than us if we can't push ourselves towards the discovery that combining opposites will empower us. Our trauma is real and will make things difficult. We will either be for one another or we will be against one another. Suryajaya offers us this confusion as a tool to see possibility.
- Efrem Zelony-Mindell
Rituals and gestures bond us as humans. These small traces of our identity connect us to tradition, family and heritage. They enrich our lives and provide comfort. From these small moments comes profound understanding.
New Malden, a suburb of South London has the biggest community of North Koreans outside of the Korean Peninsula. Around 600 defectors have settled here to build a new life, free from the regime. Defectors live complicated lives, traversing the gulf between then and now. People defect for political, ideological, religious and economic reasons. The brutality of the regime is impossible to imagine, starvation, propaganda and political pressure and punishments are just some of the extreme problems they face daily. Everything is decided for you. Free will does not exist. Even after you defect, the psychological and cultural adjustment can be hard; due to the extreme conditions people are used to. The film explores how rituals connect us in times of change and displacement.
The disparity between the media and reality is vast and we hoped the project could be a platform for these women to share their stories on their own terms. We wanted to enable them to share their experiences not only as defectors, but also as women, as elders, as musicians and most importantly as a community.
Barthes wrote that a photographic image invites the viewer to ‘take-on’ the body of the person holding the camera, or in other words to assimilate their point of view. My work plays with the affects of ‘taking-on’ the disembodied cameras of visualizing technologies. Where the person presumed to be behind the camera is either absent or non-existent.
I use ‘camera-less’ photography to create pixilated digital images, which I combine with 3D forms. My 2D images are assembled from a public satellite feed, observed over time, while capturing the diagonal bands of signal distortion. These distortions happen when the signal is interrupted and the algorithm continues to print color pixels with no input. Each square of my 2D images equates to one pixel. Even though the resulting image is in essence a computer glitch, there is a feel of harmony or pattern that looks purposeful, designed, human. The ‘wire-frame’ aesthetic of 3D computer modeling informs my plastic relief forms. By combining 2D and 3D elements I aim to activate the space between to engender optical/haptic effects.
As technology evolves so does the definition of multimedia art. However, it’s not the tools that make lasting art, it is how the artist uses these tools to express experiences and ideas. Reviewing the work for the CENTER Multimedia Award has been both creatively challenging and enlightening. Today people are not only being creative with media processes, they are reinventing new ways to share and tell facts and stories. The work that caught my attention are artists who are pushing multimedia forward in unexpected and imaginative ways, and at the same time touching pressing issues that both define and divide us.
Leonard Suryajaya’s series False Idols pushes the boundaries of representation of his/our intimate relationships. Using his loved ones as subjects in his bizarre play, Suryajaya creates elaborate scenes that are beautiful, absurd and at times disturbing. He works with several different mediums to stretch our point of view on immigration and culture norms. Suryajaya’s collages are immediately curious and unusual, yet at the same time highlight a tenderness that is very familiar. Along with photographs and video, Suryajaya also uses text as part of his imagery, words appear handwritten in installations, prints are created from his text chains, or emails superimposed into his images. The mix of words and images create an elaborate stage for multi-generational and racially diverse cast who perform his unique visual language. In the end, his work highlights that being different comes at an awkward emotional cost even though it’s something we all understand.
Catherine Hyland’s series Traces Left Behind also speaks about heritage and migration. In her series, Hyland documents how traditions and rituals protect a community of approximately 600 defectors from North Korea now living in South London. Through photograph and video documentation, her work concentrates on how ceremonies have the power to unite people as they transition to a new life. Hyland built a set for traditional performances and interviewed a group of women documenting their new life New Malden, London. Her work is simple, elegant, and emotional. It forces the viewer to see the beauty and power of formal rituals and find emotional protection that comes from community and a song.
Jodi Stuart’s work Super Synthetic is a departure from the typical definition of multimedia. Stuart's work starts with pixelated 2D images of computer glitches from a public satellite feed. From there she creates 3D plastic models representing the chaos and beauty of haptic feedback. These sculptures are hard to describe, and are oddly splendid. Stuart's sculptures make us question the images that are being repeated and coded behind the scenes of everyday technological advances. Most people do not realize that these processes exist and her work makes us experience the sublime in visualizing technology.
First Place: Leonard Suryajaya
Mom in Chicago