The “documentary”, The Act of Killing, addresses the genocide of Communist Party members in Indonesia between 1965-1966, directed by Joshua Oppenheimer. It documents the Indonesian death squads that carried out mass murders of alleged communists for the government. What creates this documentary to stand out from the others, is how Oppenheimer chronicles these killings. There was an inherent madness in his approach. He tracked down the men who actually committed the murders, to reenact these moments and participate in the film. As quoted by executive producer Werner Herzog, “they happily agreed to do so, with the emphasis on happily”. The killers re-enacted their crimes through juxtaposing the torturous cruelty with otherworldly antics, dancing and vivid colours. Unlike other documentary films, Oppenheimer blurs the line between a good and evil narrative, where the borderline between documentary and fiction is blurred. The amount of stylization and surrealism leaves the audience in a land between fantasy and reality. The audience is furthermore shown the killers everyday activities, allowing them to question and seek their own answers. In an interview on vice, Oppenheimer states that, “most movies try to kill thinking. They take thought and try to stick it in its back. This is a movie that encourages people to think”
Due to the actors re-enacting scenes that they inherently performed during the genocide, it makes you question whether the performance is real or not. Its ambiguity makes the film so powerful and unique. The documentary is trying to communicate something about the real world, through entering and exploring the idea of something other than a journalistic point of view.
The film was screen as a university in Yogyakarta, to a mixed group of students, teachers and friends of the university. The film resulted in a vast range of opinions on the subject matter. Although many questioned the film and the message it is portraying, the students, parents and teachers at the university had a universal acknowledgement that films central message is impossible to ignore and would be “ground-breaking in helping Indonesia break its silence about its history.”
Moira Horrocks lived in a suburban house in St Ives for almost 15 years before embarking on one of the most prolific experiences of her life. It wasn’t until she came across the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival online, that Moira finally took the leap and moved her life to Ubud for 2 years.
Two years ago, Moira was a freelance editor and proofreader who had always dreamt of writing her own novel or short stories. With her two children heading off to University, she decided this was perhaps her time to fulfil her lifelong passion of putting pen to paper. She had read about the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival and always felt that it was beyond her grasp however she was so inspired by the festival and their mission “to celebrate extraordinary stories and amplify brave voices”, that a few hours later had spontaneously booked herself a ticket to Indonesia.
The Ubud Readers and Writers Festival is an annual event that takes place in Bali’s creative and cultural heartland. It is now the largest and most renowned literary and cultural event of Southeast Asia, tackling global issues and encouraging imaginative ideas. Writers, artisans and performers from across Indonesia and all over the globe come together for five days to “celebrate knowledge and the arts, education, wisdom and science”. The festival cemented Moira’s lifelong dream to explore her creative passions.
After attending the festival, Moira extending her trip for another month, as she fell in love with the Indonesian culture and all that it had to offer. One month turned into two, and before she knew she had moved into a villa, just outside of Ubud, surrounded by lush tropical gardens where flowers and fruits grow freely.
Every morning, Moira walks through the rice paddies that surround her villa, and says she “often pinches [her]self with the beauty that Indonesia has to offer”. Her stories are constantly inspired by their culture and her creative design is intrinsically influenced by the unique design aesthetic of Indonesia.
The constant growing New Age community has settled down in Ubud, and there are several holistic healing centres, energy readings and tantric workshops just round the corner from where she lives. Since moving to Indonesia, Moira has enjoyed exploring her spirituality, and attends a Yoga class every morning just a few metres from her front door.
Humans have been responsible for changing conditions of the planet, in particular with waste disposal. Art and design discourses are increasingly exploring how interdisciplinary work can reinterpret how we can deal with the challenge of waste. The question is, which will surpass the other, innovation or global destruction.
In addition to waste disposal the world is facing serious natural resource and environmental challenges, consisting of fresh water depletion, deforestation and air and water pollution. Furthermore, the struggle to feed our continuously growing population exacerbates these challenges.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, it is estimated that by 2050, the demand for fresh water will rise by 50%, the demand for food will rise by over 70% and the demand for energy will nearly double. All of these factors need to be taken into consideration whilst trying to tackle waste disposal. The ultimate solution is innovation. Designers have actively created inventions using science and technology in response to the constant challenge of waste disposal. Fundamentally, environmentalist, Ramez Naam believes it is a race between the depletion and pollution of natural resources on one side and the race of innovation on the other.
Here is where designers have coupled their design expertise with advanced 21st century technology to produce innovations in response to challenges that are threatening to permanently change our earth. Designer Dickson Despommier, acknowledged the fact that by 2050 there will be over 3 billion more people to feed, however over 80% of land that can be used for farming in the world, already has been used. His solution: create farms in skyscrapers in our cities, Vertical Farms. Grown all year-round, using solar-powered lighting and naturally recycled water and waste, different crops would be grown on each level in any geographical location.
Vertical Farm Systems states that the technology was developed to improve global food security, which is under threat from a decreasing availability of fertile land, water resources, skilled farm labour and unpredictable climatic conditions. After years of development and commercial testing Vertical Farm Systems are beginning to emerge throughout the world, the Plantgon: A farm with multi-level growing systems for the year-round commercial production of leafy green crops and herbs. Ultimately with minimal inputs of water, labour or land area.
Although designers like Despommier strive to decrease waste disposal, unless the pace of innovation is increased, the race between destruction and creation will be lost.
Design is a contextually shaped idea of creation. It is the concept that design goes beyond just “design” that ultimately establishes unique and creative designs. Design is shaped by local context and relies on a dualism between thinking and knowing and acting in the world. When designing, the process of exploration, seeking and questioning, allows designers to adapt and utilize historical influences inspired through diverse contexts, to create original and creative work. Although design is the result of one’s intrinsic view on how an object, garment or building should be created, design is also essentially influenced through historical practices to produce new and innovative designs.
“Designs, knowledge and research are constituted in practice.” This knowledge is not just in people’s minds, but is ongoing and operates through what people do through specific practices. Practice is a body of know-how that has been learnt and passed down over time through repetition. Within the Indonesian culture, it is highly participatory. Art and design are highly collaborative. Indonesia is evidently an imagined community, where they live within a socially constructed society. A specific practice in which is a socially cooperative activity is batik. It is a cultural practice developed through diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures. It incorporates dye, in particular indigo, cloth and techniques, where diverse motifs circulate. This cultural practice predates written record and is now a collaboration of art and design and focuses on collectivity within the Indonesian culture. It is one of Indonesia’s cultural products that is collectively attributed. Batik has now reached a global scale, influencing designers from all different disciplines around the world.
Old influences play out and work in relation with contemporary influences. This is imperative in design. To be a designer, it is crucial to document and observe the world around you and to become an active observer. A specific active observer is Belgian designer, Dries Van Noten, who used the Batik motif within his Spring, Summer 2010 collection. He utilized multiple Batik motifs throughout the whole collection. It is imperative to consider how you are going to use the past to inform the present. Indonesia is such a diverse context, through designers seeing places and objects through different perspectives, it creates diversity and allows for endless design possibilities.
Brown, T & Katz, B, 2009 ‘Change by Design: How design transforms organizations and inspires innovation’, Harper Business, New York, pp 2-21
Gaffney, G, 2007, ‘Batik Transitions:From Classic to Contemporary’ Batik Guild, pp. 30-40
Kimbell, L, 2011, ‘Rethinking Design’ Design and Culture, Vol. 3, Iss 3, Berg Journals
Lee, C.L, Sosrowardoyo, T, Chee, L.K & Kee, F. 1991, ‘Batik: creating an identity’, National Museum Singapore, Singapore pp. 19-30
Roojen, P.V, 1994, ‘Batik Design’, Pepin Press, Michigan pp. 29-45