14_0429 post 158
This is it. The last post.
While I’m packing + preparing my devices to take this long trip, I decided to jot down what’s been on my mind lately: money, outsourcing, luxury, + the freedom to not do something.
As someone living in Jakarta, I am forced to deal with constant unpleasantness. From getting from one point to another under certain time limits, to moody weather that can change from super sunny to rainstorm in a matter of minutes, to floods, electric outage, slow average internet connections, dealing with civil servants + public beuracracies, etc.
It’s public knowledge that inequality is getting worse in this city (I think it’s a global trend), + I’m wondering, how do people more than me deal with these unpleasantnesses? It’s easy to see the physical fortresses they’ve built to protect them from these, but if they hit even the most basic urban infrastructures, they must spend at least a fraction of their precious lives experiencing these phenomena, which are everyday facts for most of us. How can they cope with it?
Throughout history, luxury (and therefore wealth) is expressed not only through things you can do, have, and acquire, but also by things you can afford not to do, have, or experience. Fashion is one of the best examples: frills are not made for those who had to wash their own laundry, neither were those fancy dry-clean only designers’ dresses + suits, made out of delicate materials. What about high-heels? They’re certainly not made for walking on our (non-existent) trotoar.
The logic of this expression of privelege done through showing the affordance of being able to not do something leaks through everything else in this city: as long as you are willing to pay, you can have someone else do something for you. This is the poison of outsourcing. Roads are terrible? Have a driver that could take you anywhere you want to take your car with you. Paperworks are just not worth your valuable time? Secretaries, ojek drivers, middlemen, and preman are here to assist you by doing it for you. The non-efficient anxiety-inducing systems are made exactly for this. You can find any kind of assistant service this way. In a system promoting middlemen services, a lot of untraceable financial flows can be made. That’s the whole point of the system: to make you give up. But as long as you have the funds to back you up, that’s the only way to get things done around here.
Other best example for this logic of not-doing is the latest case where the biggest public bank in Indonesia somehow managed to pay nothing for their tax report back in the early 2000’s. It’s in Javanese system to show your power + prowess not by doing, but exactly by not doing certain things (that’s why our culture really value silence), and by successfully evading tax, BCA showed how powerful their grip was on the state.
Thinking for myself, I twisted all of the perspective above by asking one question: what if + how can I free myself from making money to sustain my life in this city? Would it be the ultimate subversion act to question the basic building block of all mentioned above? I’m challenging it by really making a minimum wage amount (a little less than USD 300), with no other extenral support, and still living decently in the last few months. By not having to support my parents (I’m going to come clear here, they, both un- + fortunately for me, can be included in the top 5% population of this country by wealth), I can live + experiment with my own life, up until now (early thirties). By not having anyone burdening me, as a male, I can achieve the freedom of men promoted by feminists 100 years ago. By sharing, I don’t have to own some of the daily stuff I need (I do this both in my house + ruangrupa). I’m not campaigning anything in my everyday life. I just simply live with others, quietly making my own choices based on my antagonism against money (at least up until I wrote this post).
All the counter-cultures successfully created their own counter-aesthetics, and it’s working against their purpose. They become reducable into fronts, styles, fads, poses. These aesthetics differentiate, saying us + them, really effectively. This, I consider, to be a fallout.
Lastly, I want to relate it back to RFAOH. By being an artist who’s not doing art, in my reflection I am not exercising a constraint to show my protest against art-making (although I really found those who did it for this purpose in the post-war avant garde era really inspiring + liberating). What I have done is exercising my power to be able to afford it at all. MomenTech, can this be zen? If artist is a profession, stopping being a professional is a privelege, not exactly a challenge. I am fighting for this privelege, not unlike neoliberals fight against their being taxed. For this insight, I want to thank RFAOH for giving me the space, forcing me the time, and challenging me enough in these last few months.
Without you, I am nothing.
PPS: I’m leaving with my second draft of the document I’m preparing for Sharjah Art Foundation (scroll down + down + down for more details on this)…