Step into the darkened halls of the Video (e) scape exhibition and be confronted with a flurry of dreamlike, surreal images that captivate as well as intrigue.
Four large screens, standing in a boxy circle, loom in the blackness. On one, a woman runs across ancient-looking stairways and bridges, a long red cloth trailing behind her like a scarlet smoke trail. On another, animated characters emerge from blossoming lotuses, while a woman and her child frolic outside a rustic temple on a different screen.
Striking images, to be sure. Yet their creator, veteran Indonesian video artist Krisna Murti, wants visitors to his show to experience more than just what they can see.
“I want to empower the audience. My function is to trigger their imagination,” says Krisna while speaking a mixture of Bahasa Indonesia and English.
“Sometimes when I display my work, viewers just stand in the rooms and look at my videos for one or two hours. Not just because the videos are good by themselves, but after 10 minutes, they become participants. They play their own videos in their minds.”
Krisna, 59, a resident of Jakarta, is a veteran of new media. The man’s work has appeared in solo exhibitions since 1993, when his video-performance-photo installation 12 Hours In The Life Of Agung Rai, The Dancer made its debut. His latest solo shows have been e-Art-h-quarke, shown at the Village Video Festival/Jatiwangi Art Factory in 2012, and Art After Drama, curated by Jeong-ok Jeon at the Salihara Gallery in Jakarta, in 2013.
He has also been featured in group exhibitions and public collections in countries such as India, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, Italy, the United States and many more.
In 2010, he was awarded the Artist of the Year 2010 by TEMPO Magazine, and in 2013, received the Octubre Corto award for his video-dance Lotus Story in La Rioja, Spain.
He’s perhaps most well-known for his 2002 work, Wayang Machine, a contemporary video version of the traditional art of wayang kulit (shadow puppetry).
“I’m glad that I can debut these four works in Kuala Lumpur. South-East Asia has the oldest traditions of wayang kulit and shadow play in the world. I think video is the new manifestation of wayang kulit today,” the artist says.
Video (e)scape marks Krisna’s art debut in Malaysia. According to him, it is also his biggest show yet.
“I feel good about the show. I didn’t think, ‘Oh, should I have the show in Indonesia or should I have it in Malaysia’,” says Krisna. “Because nowadays, technology crosses borders, and I am glad I can use video technology to address popular concepts of today.
“Our lives nowadays are filled with technology. Most of the time, video is used for advertisements, or for entertainment. But I’m using this same media to express the things I feel. I think it’s good to have variety when we use technology.”
In person, the bespectacled Krisna is a jovial soul with a ready laugh. It’s fitting, perhaps, that a video artist is so animated. His words fly whenever he’s excited, which happens often when he discusses his art.
“Video art is spontaneous. It’s about art that happens in real-time. It’s not like film or the movies, where you have a scenario,” Krisna says. “As a visual artist, I gather all these performers and see their artistic responses to the theme of my video.”
Video (e) scape features four video pieces, each a collaboration with another performer: Paradise Under Construction (with dancer Gita Kinanthi), Soulscape (with performer Eve Wulan Smereczynska), Forest Rhymes (with dancer Mila Rosinta) and Enigma (with theatre artist/performer Satya Cipta). Each video runs for a few minutes, with Paradise being the shortest at under four minutes, and Soulscape the longest at 17 minutes.
Witnessing Video (e) scape can be mesmerising. Each video combines natural surroundings with surreal, kinetic figures, thus creating a lush, fluid world into which viewers are invited to venture on their own terms.
Paradise Under Construction, for instance, features the lush greenery of Bogor, Java, combined with cartoon characters (like Batman, the Hulk and a Japanese fortune cat!) in an exploration of the divide between reality and fantasy, or the clash between natural realism and digital simulation.
Soulscape is divided into three parts, and is meant to be a “psychological interactive dialogue” between the viewer and the performer. The performer’s facial movements, body language and hand gestures in the video act as signs, inviting viewers to engage in spiritual communication with her.
Symbols representing the past (ancient temples), the present (the video’s real-time presence) and the future (an infant) also serve as markers for the viewer to embark on a journey through memory.
Krisna describes his work as “landscapes, as interpreted by today’s technology”. His videos, he says, are meant to be “mentally interactive”, in contrast with the physical interactivity found in most other art installations.
He adds that in this day and age, it is important for people not just to consume media around them, but to also use it as a platform for understanding and critical thinking.
“We consume media every day, but do we use it to understand ourselves better? That’s always my concern. We have YouTube, cell phones, we communicate through the Internet – are what they show real or fiction? How do we perceive it?” he asks.
“We live in a media culture, but the question is, why are we not all creators? We need to understand the media that surrounds us and use it to develop our own creativity.”
Video (e) scape will be showing at Galeri Petronas (Lot 341-343, Level 3, Suria KLCC) until Nov 15. Admission is free. The gallery is open from 10am to 8pm every day except Mondays. For more information, visit galeripetronas.com.my or call (03) 2051 7770.