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Six leading and emerging Indonesian authors: Erni Aladjai, Eka Kurniawan, Goenawan Mohamad, Laksmi Pamuntjak, Mahfud Ikhwan, and Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie have been assigned and each to develop a new literary work inspired by the work of Suwage. This anthology explores the ongoing influences of works and ideas on generations of artists and critical thinkers. Museum MACAN, Gramedia Pustaka Utama, and Pear Press held a book talk and signing of Pressure and Pleasure with Agus Suwage, Dian Ina, Eka Kurniawan, and Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie, moderated by Patricia Wulandari (co-founder of Podluck Podcast).

Presented by Museum MACAN, it offers an alternative perspective on the works of contemporary artists and encourages interdisciplinary collaboration. The lineup of authors includes fiction writers, essayists, and playwrights, with each author creating their interpretation of Suwage’s work and practice.

Aaron Seeto, Director of Museum MACAN said, “This book – an anthology of contemporary writing from Indonesia, is not a traditional take on an exhibition catalog. Instead, we have attempted to extend the very concepts and processes of ‘reading’ Suwage’s work, to draw parallels and sympathies with other critical minds. To engage with Suwage’s work is to explore its rich literary and artistic quotations, and to understand the political histories of the cities he was living in when he was making the works. The interrelated processes of translation, and reading, as well as the capacity to identify the vectors of influence and to articulate the similarities and differences to today, requires us to draw on both historical reasoning and the individual imagination.”

Pressure and Pleasure Cover. Image courtesy of Museum MACAN

Erni Aladjai said, “My encounter with Agus Suwage works, I would say is very personal. I was drawn by his illustrations at Harian Kompas every Sunday and from literature book covers. Through Pressure and Pleasure, I got the chance to dive deeper into his works and found a different, yet profound perspective on death from Siklus #1 (2010). It reminds me of the pandemic when I heard about the deaths of my relatives and thought that it would be my turn someday. But then I learned that death is not a tragedy, but it is part of the life cycle. Departing from that idea, I wrote a short story about an airplane crash from a light and fun angle, where all the skeletons have their own identities and are connected at some point in their lives. Through this story, I want to redefine death in the same way as we see the beauty in life.”

Eka Kurniawan said, “As an admirer of Agus Suwage, among his many works, Ugly Self Portraits (1997) captured my attention the most and inspired me to write an essay about ugliness as the representation of self-expression and criticism. It is not always about the exclusion from what seems ideal in society, but it could be a commodity from the economic side. Instead of writing a literature study, the essay was born from trivial stories that I’ve collected, and I hope this would open our perspective towards ugliness.”

Goenawan Mohamad said, “As a fan of Agus Suwage, this is a new exploration for me to write fiction in response to an artist’s work. Something that I have never done before.”

Laksmi Pamuntjak said, “Pressure and Pleasure is an exciting project for me. I took inspiration from Daughter of Democracy (1996) and the Daughter of Democrazy (1996) series to create an imaginary dialogue between Agus Suwage and Carkultera, his daughter, 26 years after the artworks were made. One of the most exciting things in writing fiction is that there can be a lot of unexpected elements during the process–there’s a reflection about identity as something inherited, about death and rebirth, hope and redemption; there’s also a reflection of creation, especially in painting other people’s face as part of self-exploration and social commentary.”

Pressure and Pleasure Back Cover. Image courtesy of Museum MACAN

Mahfud Ikhwan said, “It’s been a while since my last short story and novels. When Museum MACAN asked me to take part in the Pressure and Pleasure publication, I felt like a former football player coming back to the field–excited yet nervous at the same time. My excitement grew when I saw Pressure and Pleasure (1999), an artwork featuring a military tent with Indonesian adult movie posters from the 90s era. Like an old and packed closet, my mind burst with memories, experiences, and obsessions, which led me to write Setelah Hilangnya Pelukis Iman Amanullah.”

Ziggy Zezsyazeoviennazabrizkie said, “As someone who is always stimulated by visuals, taking part in Pressure and Pleasure is an exciting opportunity. Inspired by some of Agus Suwage’s works while writing the short story for this project. Tembok Toleransi (2012) and Social Mirrors #3 (2013) captured my interest in particular because issues of conservatism which are rarely met with empathy and compassion toward others are a theme that I am always drawn to–and both these artworks share that same sentiment. Along the way, I ended up responding to too many works that would remind me of my own experiences, like Monumen Yang Menjaga Hankamnas (2012) which ties into the story’s setting in Blok S, Jakarta–it was said that there are 19 guardian angels of hell, and S is the 19th alphabet in the system. There are lots of beautiful coincidences that happened during the writing process.”


Sri Utami
Sri Utami
A writer who loves to explore interesting places, food, people and culture. When she is not writing, she spends her time with sightseeing, reading books and watching movies. Former hotelier and marketing enthusiast who’s keen to socialize and to learn new things.


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