Last Friday night I went to Agan Harahap's solo exhibition opening at MES 56. It's a relatively small show, with only around 9 (but all beautiful!) prints from his Safari series, which is a series of digitally manipulated images which put wild animals in the unlikely setting of places we commonly see in our daily life. Some examples include a komodo dragon inside an office space, a bear in a parking lot, a kangaroo in a library. And those aren't even the weirdest, trust me. Visually it's kind of like Amy Stein's Domesticated, but with digitally added animals instead of stuffed props. And the most significant difference between the two is, while Domesticated seek to "explore our paradoxical relationship with the "wild" and how our conflicting impulses continue to evolve and alter the behavior of both humans and animals." (taken from her artist statement), Safari doesn't offer any explanation whatsoever on why the series was made or what the series is supposed to convey. Wait, what? Yes, although the link I provided earlier do have some statements of some sort, but they were written by someone else. When I talked with him that night, Agan told me that he originally didn't write a single thing to accompany the images. And after I inferred whether he started the series as a mere way to pass the time, he casually confirmed it. I guess it's just the way he is, and that's what I like about his works. He does things because he simply can and not really caring about much else. He doesn't have any restrictions on how he would construct the work (some of the more conservative people would probably be enraged if they found out about the method by which he created this series --which I wouldn't disclose here, you might try asking him yourself), and he certainly doesn't care how his works would be perceived by the viewers. It's like, he got all these images inside his head and he just had to let them out, one way or the other.
Though he professionally works as a photographer, Agan never limits his personal works to traditional photographic methods. (And interestingly enough, nowhere in the publication materials nor the actual showroom itself will you find written line saying that it's a "photography exhibition") You might think that given my personal taste in photography, I wouldn't like people who manipulate their photographs that much. While that is true to some extent, Agan is one of the few exceptions. Partly because aside from his digital manipulations, his conventional photographs are just as wicked. In these days when the walls between photography genres are steadily crumbling, people like Agan are already breaking through those walls with seemingly little effort. Or perhaps for them there weren't any walls to begin with. Honestly I feel slight envy towards them. Compared to them, the way I'm doing photography seems archaic and very 'limited'. Not that I'm thinking to change my ways of working, mind you, but it does raise some questions whether what I'm doing is still suited to this age and if it is how much longer it will prevail.
All that said, the exhibition will run until the end of August. If you happen to be in Jogja during those dates, I really recommend you to come and see it.
Oh yeah, before I forgot...
Good news #1: During the talk, I asked if he would continue the TransJakarta series to which the answer is yes.
Good news #2: He also mentioned that he currently got this idea for his next series, and while I won't leak any details, it involves world history, and given its controversial idea it would probably piss a lot of people. Suffice to say I'm praying it will come to materialization. ;)