Confessions(of the artist as a young mom)

Category: Curatorial

Tentang Seorang Ibu Muda, Seorang Bayi, Sejumlah Gambar dan Instalasi

Oleh : Enin Supriyanto

Saya mengenal Theresia Agustina Sitompul, yang biasa dipanggil Tere saja, beberapa tahun lalu, saat ia masih pacaran dengan (suaminya, sekarang) S. Teddy D. Waktu itu, akhir tahun 2006, saya cukup sering menemui S. Teddy D. untuk mempersiapkan pameran tunggalnya, yang kemudian berlangsung di awal tahun 2007 (S. Teddy D, Pictura, Nadi Gallery, Jakarta.)

Lewat pengalaman persiapan pameran itu pula saya mulai mengenal Tere yang periang, gesit, dan penuh perhatian saat bekerja. Saat itu, praktis ia membantu S. Teddy D dan saya dalam mempersiapkan pameran Pictura tadi.

Ia ternyata sudah menata dan merapikan berbagai data dan penyimpanan karya S. Teddy D; bahkan ikut mengatur jadwal kerja dan kegiatan pameran S. Teddy D. Akan halnya S. Teddy D sendiri, meskipun daya ingatnya tajam kalau menyangkut detail karya-karyanya yang entah terserak atau tersimpan di mana, seringkali tidak punya keinginan untuk mengumpul-ngumpulkan atau untuk sekedar melengkapi segala keperluan data dokumentasi karya-karyanya itu.

Perkenalan dan kerjasama Tere dan saya itu lantas berlanjut. Saya meminta bantuannya untuk membantu saya mengurus persiapan pameran FETISH Object Art Project (Biasa Artspace, Bali, Juli 2007). Sekali lagi saya berkesempatan “memanfaatkan” keriangan, energi, dan ketekunan kerja Tere.

Di antara semua kesibukan di masa perkenalan kami yang sebenarnya belum terlalu lama itu, saya jarang sekali memerhatikan karya-karya Tere. Satu-satunya hal yang saya tahu, ketika itu, adalah bahwa ia punya kelompok kerja seni cetak grafis: Studio Grafis Minggiran.

Baru belakangan—karena hampir tiapkali saya ke Jogja saya sempatkan untuk mampir ke tempat S. Teddy D (tepatnya, rumah kost Tere yang ditumpangi Teddy)—saya mulai melihat sejumlah karya cetak grafis yang dibuat Tere. Sebagian besar adalah cetak etsa dan drypoint dengan figur-figur perempuan yang tampak kecil dan ringkih, dalam warna yang samar-samar saja di permukaan kertas cetak itu.

Tapi, garis-garisnya tampak kuat berirama. Dan, selalu ada sentuhan feminin yang kentara di situ, entah apa, yang dengan cepat menggugah kenangan saya untuk teringat pada anak perempuan saya, isteri saya, atau teman-teman perempuan saya semasa kuliah. Sebatas itu saja ingatan saya tentang Tere dan karya-karyanya.

Berikutnya, yang saya tahu, Tere jadi menikah dengan S. Teddy D (2007). Dan, tak sampai setahun kemudian, lahirlah anak pertama mereka, bayi perempuan berambut ikal, yang diberi nama keren: Blora Frida Margareta (10 Mei 2008).

Saya sempat beberapakali lagi berkunjung ke rumah pasangan ini di Jogja. Mereka tetap saja sibuk berkarya. Dan, di rumah yang kini mereka tempati, tetap saja selalu ada teman-teman mereka—seniman atau bukan seniman—yang berkunjung setiap hari.

Dalam beberapa kali kunjungan ini, saya tetap menyaksikan Tere yang periang, gesit, dan masih sibuk mengurusi ini-itu (untuk urusan karya + acara pameran Teddy), sambil mengurusi si bayi Blora, dan berkarya seni rupa.

Beberapa karyanya, baru berupa model atau separuh jadi, tergeletak begitu saja di ruang tamu atau di ruang kerja mereka. Barulah saya perhatikan bahwa tidak hanya Tere yang berubah, dari seorang perempuan perupa belia jadi seorang ibu muda; tapi juga karyanya. Atau, lebih pas lagi: perubahan menjadi seorang Ibu membekas lekat pada karya-karya terbarunya. Karya-karyanya mulai berkembang merambah ke berbagai medium.

Tidak hanya gambar dan cetak grafis, kini ia membuat sejumlah instalasi. Dan, kali ini, ia tidak lagi menumpahkan keheningan perasaan perempuan yang mencari tempat sembunyi dalam karya-karyanya. Sejumlah karya instalasainya justeru menghadirkan, nyaris-nyaris secara langsung, pengalamannya sebagai Ibu dan berbagai pengalaman barunya dalam kaitannya dengan si buah hati, Blora. Unsur ini, bagi saya, sungguh tergolong langka dalam berbagai ungkapan karya seni rupa kontemporer kita, bahkan jika dikaitkan langsung dengan persoalan gender penciptanya: perupa perempuan.

Mungkin ada yang pernah membaca soal ini dalam suatu ulasan yang ditulis Sanento Yuliman, yang saya kira tetap punya gayutan dengan situasi seni rupa kita sekarang. Dalam ulasannya itu—ditulis hampir 20 tahun lalu, 1987, mengulas karya-karya yang ada dalam pameran klompok perupa perempuan “Nuansa Indonesia”, di TIM, Jakarta, di akhir 1987—ia mengajukan satu soal yang kiranya seringkali luput kita perhatikan saat mengaitkan perkara karya seni rupa dan penciptanya yang (bukan kebetulan) seorang perempuan.

Begini cara ia mengajukannya: “Dalam pameran ini tidak mudah mengatakan, apanya yang khas perempuan—dalam karya-karya mereka—selain penciptanya. Sebaliknya, keutamaan seni lukis, kecilnya porsi keramik, mangkirnya tekstil, dan absennya seni yang belum dijamah lelaki seperti sulam-menyulam—menunjukkan bayang-bayang pikiran kesenirupaan yang dominan dewasa ini: pikiran lelaki.” (Nuansa Putri Vs. Kuasa Lelaki, 1987; dimuat dalam Sanento Yuliman, Dua Seni Rupa, 2001).

Dua puluh tahun berselang, tentu saja keadaan ini sedikit-banyak mulai berubah. Ada cukup banyak perempuan perupa di Indonesia yang menonjol dan secara berhasil menghadirkan soal-soal perempuan dalam karya mereka.

Dan, perlu kita pahami juga bahwa kelangkaan soal-soal perempuan dalam karya seni rupa ini tidak hanya masalah dalam wilayah praktik seni rupa di Indonesia. Di Amerika Serikat saja—yang sudah kenal gagasan dan gerakan feminisme sejak akhir 1960-an—aspek representasi soal-soal yang khas perempuan dalam karya seni rupa masih terus jadi soal. Paling tidak sampai pertengahan 1980an—berdekatan waktu dengan pameran “Nuansa Indonesia” yang diulas Sanento Yuliman tadi—soal yang khas ini masih jadi soal strategis untuk diajukan dalam wacana dan praktik seni rupa kontemporer di sana.

Cobalah pelajari “The Birth Project” (1980), misalnya, proyek seni rupa yang digagas dan diorganisir oleh perempuan perupa hebat Judy Chicago itu. Ini adalah proyek seni rupa yang dengan jelas menghadirkan perkara yang “khas perempuan” dalam sekali jalan: persoalan melahirkan dan seni rajut dan sulam.

Lebih jauh lagi, karya tersebut berdimensi partisipatoris karena melibatkan puluhan perempuan dalam rangkaian lokakarya dan pameran yang berkesinambungan, melintasi batas negara. Salah satu alasan lahirnya proyek yang menarik ini, secara khsus tegas dinyatakan oleh Chicago: karena sebelum ini persoalan dan pengalaman perempuan melahirkan tak pernah dihadirkan dalam karya seni rupa. (Dalam penjelasannya ia menuliskan: Prior to the Birth Project, few images of birth existed in Western art, a puzzling omission as birth is a central focus of many women’s lives and a universal experience of all humanity – as everyone is born. Seeking to fill this void, Judy Chicago created multiple images of birth to be realized through needlework, a visually rich medium which has been ignored or trivialized by the mainstream art community.— Sebagian dokumentasi dan penjelasan bisa dilihat di: http://www.throughtheflower.org)

Soal serupa yang ditengarai Sanento Yuliman seperti terungkap dalam kutipan ulasannya di atas tadi. Beberapa tahun kemudian, saya dengan penuh perhatian membaca ulasan yang lain lagi. Kali ini yang mengulas adalah Astri Wright, berkenaan dengan perempuan perupa Indonesia, dan sekaligus dengan soal “melahirkan” sebagai pokok soal. Khusus dengan soal terakhir, yang “khas perempuan” itu, Astri Wright mengamati dan mencatat betapa radikal dan sekaligus memukaunya pencapaian Kartika Affandi khususnya dalam dua lukisannya: The Moment of Beginning (1981), dan Rebirth (juga 1981).

Kedua karya ini jelas-jelas menghadirkan citra “melahirkan” sebagi rujukan dan sekaligus sebagai metafor bagi pengalaman pribadi si seniman dan sekaligus seorang perempuan yang telah bergulat dengan berbagai kepahitan pengalaman hidup untuk sampai pada penemuan atas dirinya sendiri. (Astri Wright, Undermining the Order of The Javanese Universe, The self-portraits of Kartika Affandi-Köberl, Art Asia Pacific, Vol 1/ no. 3, 1994).

Ini adalah kenyataan yang tak tersangkal: bahwa melahirkan adalah suatu pengalaman tubuh, mental, dan juga sosial, yang hanya bisa dialami dan dipahami oleh perempuan. Hal yang sungguh “khas perempuan” inilah yang kini akan tampil melalui karya-karya Tere dalam tunggalnya kali ini. Selain perkara tema yang khas itu, maka dimensi lain juga secara langsung ikut mengemuka dalam karya-karya ini: dimensi autobiografis.

Mau tak mau, melahirkan bayi dan merawat anak itu adalah pengalaman yang bersifat demikian langsung dialami, dilakoni—personal. Di satu sisi hal itu tampak sebagai sesuatu yang alamiah; tapi di sisi lain, hal itu adalah sesutau yang diputuskan atau dipilih secara rasional dan lantas secara dramatis juga mengubah hidup seseorang (perempuan). Pada perempuan, sekian banyak hal yang ikut berubah.

Yang berubah bukan cuma tubuhnya, tapi juga relasi sosialnya, rutinitas kesehariannnya, bahkan berbagai hal yang lebih menyuruk di dalam: pikiran, harapan dan impiannya (akan masa depan anaknya, ketimbang dirinya sendiri).

Itu sebabnya, bagi saya, berhadapan dengan karya-karya semacam yang hadir dalam pameran kali ini, melulu menyandarkan diri pada penilaian-penilaian yang bersifat estetik (bagi yang masih sangat percaya pada soal ini) adalah tidak sepenuhnya memadai. Persoalan pengalaman hidup, kualitas autobiografis tadi, juga perlu diberi tempat yang penting.

Berbagai soal di atas akhirnya berpadu dalam judul pameran ini: Confessions (Of an Artist as a Young Mom). Saya yakin Anda bisa menduga-duga dari mana unsur-unsur pembentuk judul itu saya curi. Pertama, “Pengakuan” (Confessions) saya ambil dari judul buku autobiografi tulisan St. Augustine yang paling pertama—sekaligus salah satu yang paling memukau—dalam khasanah sastra Barat.

Dengan meminjam judul ini, ada sedikit keisengan saya untuk menyatakan bahwa pengakuan seorang perupa perempuan dan seorang ibu yang bertutur dan berbagi tentang pengalaman ke-Ibu-annya, pantas juga diperlakukan sebagai suatu pengakuan akan pengalaman spiritual layaknya yang dialami seorang aulia.

Bagian belakang dari judul itu Seorang Perupa Sebagai Ibu Muda (of an Artist as a Young Mom), saya comot dari buku autobiografi jenis lain lagi, yakni karya satrawan James Joyce yang terkenal itu: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Judul yang satu ini, sedemikian terkenalnya, maka demikian sering pula ia diambil dan dimanfaatkan untuk judul entah untuk keperluan tulisan lain, filem, dan lain-lainnya (Salah satunya: Goenawan Mohamad, Potret Seorang Penyair Muda Sebagai Si Malin Kundang, 1971, 1993). Bagian ini, juga karena keisengan saya berlanjut. Saya mengajak Tere untuk memperlakukan dirinya sendiri—secara utuh dengan predikat ke-Ibu-annya—sebagai tokoh utama dalam pameran ini.

Dan, untuk melengkapi soal pengakuan dan watak autobigrafis dalam karya-karya yang dipamerkan kali ini, saya kutipkan sebagian dari “pengakuan” Tere yang saya peroleh lewat suatu sesi wawancara:

Enin Supriyanto (ES): Tere… Kamu masuk ISI tahun berapa?
Theresia Agustina Sitompul (T): 1999

ES: Dan selesai, lulus… Tahun berapa?
T: 2007

ES: Kok lama kuliahnya?
Tere: Hehehehe… Daripada malah gak rampung… hahahaa

ES: Menikah tahun berapa?
Tere: Tahun berapa ya? 2007.

ES: Oh… Baru lulus, wisuda, terus menikah, ya?
Tere: Hehehe… Iya. Wisuda… Terus dibuahi. Hahahaha…

ES: Blora, anakmu, lahir kapan? Setahun kemudian?
Tere: tidak sampai setahun, ya saya hamil duluan baru menikah… Blora lahir tgl 10 Mei 2008.

ES: Sekarang dia sudah 10 bulan ya?
Tere: Iya, 10 bulan…

ES: Jadi setelah Blora lahir, sambil ngurusi bayi juga mulai sibuk bikin karya lagi, ya?
T: Iya. Tapi sebenarnya waktu hamil juga masih terus bikin karya.

ES: Sejak itu, soal kehamilan kamu, dan juga soal anak jadi pokok penting dalam karyamu, ya.
T: Iya, soal-soal anak, keluarga…

ES: Tapi yang khusus, pengalaman jadi ibu, ya… Termasuk pengalaman melahirkan bayi?
Tere: Wah…. Iya… Itu ngeri. Ya, maskudnya, aku harus siap mental.

ES: Gak ada jalan mundur, ya…
T: Iyalah… Apapun, itu harus dilalui, apapun yang terjadi nanti… (Aku) punya ketakutan (waktu itu): Wah, anakku gimana ya nanti? Belum keluarpun, anakku masih dalam perut pun aku sudah mulai mikir jauh… Kalau lahir begini, bagaimana? Kalau sudah lahir, membesarkannya gimana? ‘Kan aku lihat juga, suamiku (S.Teddy D) seperti ini, bagaimana aku bisa membimbing anakku nanti. Keadaan keluarga kami ya begini… Yah, soal-soal seperti itu jadi kepikiran terus…

ES: Tapi, soal-soal itu juga yang memotivasi kamu untuk terus bikin karya, ya?
T: Ya… Salah satunya (untuk pameran kali ini), ada patung Blora, dari kecil, dan besok dia akan tambah besar… makin besar lagi. Dan, bagaimana nanti aku merawat dia. Karena, aku punya pertanyaan terus: apa bisa ya aku merawat dia? Sampai sekarang juga begitu. Kadang mikir: Aku kok salah ya? Ada ketakutan-ketakutan, gitu… Gimana sih cara jadi ibu yang baik? ‘Kan, aku belum tahu… Ini yang aku lakukan (untuk Blora dan keluarga) ini baik ‘gak sih, gitu…

ES: Ada juga karya instalasimu yang berangkat dari pengalaman melahirkan Blora ini…
T: Ya, itu tentang melahirkan (anak). Ada yang bagian merah itu, jalur keluar bayi, ada darah… dan juga sandaran (stand) kaki… Ya, itu mungkin sudah cukup mewakili, gak perlu ada kaki ngangkang segala… Gerakan bayinya pun dari kepala, dia keluar, meluncur belok-belok lantas baru kakinya yang di bawah. Terus dia merangkak. Dia mulai tumbuh…

ES: Ada juga yang menampilkan Blora di kotak pos itu…
T: Itu pengalaman pribadiku juga, dengan keluargaku sendiri. Aku dulu masuk ISI keluargaku gak ada yang setuju. Aku kirim surat, aku minta dikirimi surat dari orang tuaku. Sampai aku lulus pun, orang tuaku gak datang mengunjungi. Aku gak mau begitu dengan anakku (nanti). Itu sebabnya aku kasih judul: “I miss your letter, Mom.”

(Dalam bahasa Jawa, dengan logat Surabaya/Jawa Timur yang kental, Tere meruskan ceritanya.)

Mbok aku ditakoni…. kuwi ngopo wae neng Jogja… gitu. Aku mau begitu dengan anakku… Dan, ya, emang sekarang orang sudah jarang kirim surat. Ada sms, atau lainnya, udah gampang… Padahal, sebenernya, penting juga surat itu.

ES: Aku pernah lihat karyamu, mungkin pameran di Syang (Magelang), yang menampilkan perempuan dengan tangan banyak. Itu judulnya apa, ya? Bisa cerita soal karya itu?
T: Itu… judulnya: Me as an Artist, Me as Housekeeper, Me as Mother, Me as Christian, Me as a Secretary, Me as a Traveller… Jadi ada gambaran aku bawa roller, untuk cetak, terus bawa bayi, bawa Injil, bawa handphone, bawa teropong… Itu bukan cuma traveller, melancong, membawa teropong… Seperti mencari tahu sesuatu, mencari ilmu… Sebenarnya aku berharap: Wah, kalo aku punya tangan banyak, aku bisa sekali kerja, rampung kabeh. Tapi, gimana… Tangannya cuma dua… Hehehehe…

ES: Jadi, setelah menikah dan kelahiran Blora, kompleksitas hidup kamu langsung meningkat berlipat-lipat. Mungkin, tidak terbayangkan sebelumnya, ya?
T: Ya… Iya. Tiga bulan pertama setelah Blora lahir, itu rasanya berat sekali. Aku harus adaptasi dengan banyak hal, ya anakku juga dengan suamiku, Teddy. Bulan pertama, aku sering nangis terus. Ada juga rasa ketakutan: Ini kalo anakku mati, gimana? Sampai begitu… Takut sekali… Karena, rasanya aku cuma sendiri (menghadapi) semua ini. Sementara kalo Teddy, dia ngerasa belum “dekat” dengan bayi ini. Mungkin buat dia: “Opo tho iki?” Kayaknya tiba-tiba “bluk” ada di sini. Sementara kalo aku ‘kan…. Udah sembilan bulan dia jadi bagian tubuhku, hidupku… Sebulan pertama itu, berat sekali, aku nangis terus…

ES: Boleh tahu, karya pertama yang kamu buat yang langsung berhubungan dengan pengalaman kamu hamil ini ada gak ya?
T: Waktu hamil itu aku ada bikin gambar… Ada beberapa orang, figur anak-anak di depan, terus ada aku di belakang. Merangkul, melindungi mereka… Itu lukisanku. Ada juga sejumlah karya cetak grafis, beberapa… Untuk ngungkapin berbagai perasaan-perasaan yang lewat… gak terlalu spesifik soal perasaanku dengan anakku.

ES: Sampai sekarang, melihat karyamu yang berupa koin-koin, kamu bahkan udah mikirin soal pendidikan untuk anakmu…
T: Ya… Iya. Teddy dan aku ini seniman… Ya, hidupnya dari melukis, jual karya seni… Lantas biaya pendidikan semakin mahal, terus gimana ya nanti anakku. Aku pingin anakku nanti sekolahnya yang bagus, yang baik… Kalo lihat anak-anak di jalanan gitu, ya kepikir: Iki piye yo.. Iki sesuk anak-anakku piye yo? Gitu… Nek gak sekolah, terus minta-minta di jalan… Waaaah… Itu, lantas kepikir bikin karya seni untuk pendidikan, gitu…
Dan aku ingin jika karya tersebut terjual, setengah dari hasil penjualan aku ingin sumbangkan untuk pendidikan (bisa lewat dompet peduli atau semacamnya). Karya ini semacam project yang terus menerus ingin aku lakukan. Koin tersebut aku jual satuan…tp ada nilai tukarnya…dan rencanaku akan dibuatkan sertifikat bagi siapa yang membeli koin tersebut. Sempat aku melihat spanduk bertuliskan “uang receh tidak bisa berikan pendidikan kepada mereka”, tapi kenapa aku buat koin..yang identik dengan receh…maka aku pikir koin atau receh tersebut akan berarti jika ada yang membeli…hehehe..

ES: Sempat aku perhatikan, ada semacam rujukan pada teman-tema Kristen dalam karyamu, gak banyak tapi ada. Seperti misalnya yang kamu ikutkan di pameran REFRESH (Singapore, 2008) itu… Kamu buat figur itu, seperti representasi pengalaman diri sendiri…
T: Hehehe… Iya… Berkorban. Aku tiba-tiba pengen bikin, pakai salib itu…

ES: Kamu emang tumbuh di lingkungan keluarga Kristen, ya?
T: Iya, sangat taat… Kakakku aja satu jadi pendeta. Sekarang, ibu mertuaku juga sangat kuat Kristen-nya. Sering kirim sms: Selamat Pagi. Selamat Hari Minggu. Sudah ke gereja belum? Hehehe… Terkadang suntuk juga… Soalnya, jadi rasanya aku ini kok ya “murtad” gitu, lho… Tapi, ya udahlah… Mereka mungkin cuma mau ngingetin aja.

Tapi, pokoknya, aku sih bersyukur dengan keadaanku sekarang, dengan anakku Blora… aku bersyukur banget. ‘Gak seperti waktu bulan pertama… Wah, aku tertekan banget… Waktu dan tenagaku seperti terikat cuma urusan bayi aja… Aku capek… Dan yang pasti juga ada trauma. Sampai beberapa lama setelah melahirkan, urusan hubungan suami-isteri aja aku juga masih takut: “Wah, ini nanti hamil, punya bayi, ngelahirin, sakit lagi!” Dianjurin pake alat (KB). Aku takut. Nanti itu ada sesuatu yang dimasukkan ke dalam (vagina)… Aku takut banget itu nanti sakit… Untunglah Teddy bisa ngerti soal ketakutanku ini.

ES: Kembali ke soal karya seni, menurutku, kita jarang sekali melihat karya yang menghadirkan soal pengalaman ibu dan anak dengan begitu jelas dan kuat, menyangkut pengalaman tubuh ibu atau perempuan itu sendiri. Yang umum kita lihat ‘kan representasi idealisasi atau romantisasi ibu-anak yang kebanyakan malah dibikin oleh perupa laki-laki… Pada kamu, soal itu jadi konkrit, ini soal tubuh yang melahirkan… gitu…
T: Iya gitu… ini soal tubuhku… dan sesuatu yang “kudhu”… gitu lho, harus aku lalui…

ES: Ada karya perempuan perupa lain yang mungkin pernah menggugah kamu, atau kamu anggap kuat menghadirkan soal serupa?
T: Gak ada yang khusus… tapi kalo soal teknis, presentasi… meski aku gak banyak tahu soal seniman ini, aku suka sekali dengan karya Kiki Smith.
(Dalam majalah TIME, edisi 8 Mei 2006, yang menampilkan 100 orang yang dianggap paling berpengaruh berkat pencapaian mereka di berbagai bidang, termasuk seni rupa, tercantum nama Kiki Smith. Yang menulis komentar tentang Kiki Smith dalam edisi itu adalah salah seorang seniman AS terkemuka, Chuck Close. Demikian ia menulis tentang rekannya itu: In myriad materials such as glass, fiber and beads (some associated more with amateurs and craft-show practitioners than with professional artists), she has embraced a dizzyingly diverse vocabulary of the demoted, debased and despised—and she makes you like it.(…) She has a real connectedness, in my opinion, to what used to be called women’s work—quilting, crocheting, knitting—activities in which small units go together to make bigger pieces.)
Pokoknya secara visual, aku suka karyanya. Dan dia cukup banyak bikin karya cetak. Buatku, karyanya jelas dengan tema atau permasalahan yang mau dia ajukan.

ES: Sekarang, kamu udah mantap dan yakin untuk terus berkarya sebagai seniman, dengan urusan Blora dan rumahtangga sekaligus…
T: Iyaaaa… Ya, jadi ibu, ya jadi seniman. Karena, begini… Aku lihat ya, beberapa teman perempuan, seniman, punya anak lantas dia berhenti berkarya sampai anaknya berumur beberapa tahun. Aku sih gak mau begitu. Anak itu bukan hambatan untuk berkarya. Tapi, anak itu justru sumber semangatku untuk berkarya… Gak dijadikan alasan:”Uuuuh… Aku sibuk ngurusi anak, gini…. Aku ora iso nggambar, ato apa…” Aku gak mau gitu… Meskipun ya terkadang terasa: “Aduuuh… Kesele rek, ngurusi anak, pengen gambar, tapi yo keselee… Kadang ya, ada pikiran gitu… Tapi aku menolak, melawan itu. Sampai sekarang Blora sudah usia 10 bulan ya masih proses juga gimana ngatur semua ini, urusan keluarga, berkarya, bagi waktu untuk semua hal…

ES: Sementara Teddy, atau seniman laki-laki mungkin jarang sekali, atau gak ada ya yang punya masalah atau tantangan begitu…
T: Ya… Iya… Kemarin kita bikin kelompok, ngobrol… Aku, Mella Jaarsma, Arahmaiani, dan teman-teman lain (perempuan perupa) di Cemeti. Sempat juga sampai ngobrolin kenapa kalo presentasi, diskusi, sesama perempuan ya lebih enak. Sementara kalo sama seniman laki, suamiku sendiri, juga seniman, tanggapan-tanggapan dan permasalahan (yang mereka tangkap) itu ya berbeda… Teddy ‘kan seniman dan lebih senior. Kalo nanggapin: “Kamu mestinya gini, mestinya gitu…” Ini juga masalah buat aku. Waaaah… padahal semuanya masih ide di kepalaku… Wah, kadang sampe mikir: ideku sing bener, opo ide de’e, yo?” Sampe gitu… Wah, pusing…

ES: Kalo ama temen-temen perupa perempuan?
T: Mereka cuma tanya-tanya, diskusi, enak aja… Besok juga ada rencana aku akan presentasi dengan mereka, sharing soal karya-karyaku dan pameranku ini. Lewat ngobrol-ngobrol itu, aku baru tahu banyak temen (perempuan perupa) punya masalah yang sama. Suaminya seniman, punya anak…

ES: Gimana soal persiapan karya pameran kali ini, apa kamu udah nemuin pola yang enak untuk urusan keluarga dan urusan kamu harus berkarya?
T: Masih terus cari cara…. Sempat aku putusin berkarya di rumah aja, di sini, biar selalu ada deket anakku. Malah gak bisa aku. Lagi kerja, entar kedengeran dia main, teriak-teriak, terus pengen tahu dia lagi ngapain sih… Jadi kalo sekarang, siang beberapa jam aku ke studio-ku (di daerah Minggiran, sekitar 10-15 menit dengan sepeda motor dari ruma Tere-teddy) kerja terus di sana… Jadi ‘gak denger suara Blora, udah ada pengasuh yang bisa dipercaya… Sekitar 4 jam aku kerja di studio. Nanti aku balik ke rumah ketemu dia lagi, main, menyusui. Sempat aku kerja cetak grafis di rumah… Baru mulai kerja, terus Blora bangun, nangis. Waaaah… Repot. Cepet-cepet bersih-bersih dulu, cuci tangan, dan lain-lain terus ngurus dia… Repot banget. Beres, baru kerja satu jam, belum selesai, dia udah bangun, nangis lagi… Waaah! Saat itu dia masih cuma minum ASI belum makan… Sekarang, ada teman-teman yang juga mau bantu komunitas cetak grafisku di Minggiran, jadi bisa bantu aku beresin karya juga. Ya, sekarang masih cari-cari gimana enaknya (ngurus anak dan berkarya).

ES: Belakangan ini karyamu mediumnya macam-macam. Ada cetak grafis, drawing, juga instalasi… Setahuku kamu mulai dari cetak grafis ‘kan? Kapan kamu mulai bikin komunitas cetak grafis di Minggiran itu?
T: Tahun 2001… Aku dan temen-temen bikin Studio Grafis Minggiran. Pertama kali sekitar 10 orang. Arya Panjalu juga dulu ikutan. Seakrang tinggal enam orang yang aktif (Nawang Seto, Danang Hadi (Tape), Denny Rahman, Rully Putra Adi, Petrus Priya Wicaksono, dan Tere). Yang perempuan cuma aku…. Hehehehe…

ES: Gimana awalnya terbentuk kelompok ini? Dan sejak awal cuma kamu yang perempuan?
T: Ya… Hehehe… Dari awal cuma aku anggota perempuan. Awalnya itu kami cuma kumpul-kumpul, bikin komik, kartu, nyablon (screenprint), jual kaos (t-shirt), pada waktu ada acara Pekan Komik di benteng Vredeburg. Ada temen yang punya becak, kita bawa macem-macem (hasil sablon) untuk di jual (di Benteng Vrederburg, Jogja). Baru setelah itu kepikiran: Ayo kita bikin komunitas cetak grafis… Waktu itu rumah temen yang sering dipake kumpul-kumpul itu di Minggiran. Akhirnya jadi namanya Studio Grafis Minggiran. Waktu itu, Agung Leak Kurniawan punya mesin press yang dipinjamkan ke kita. Kita jadi punya tanggungan, harus bisa dimanfaatkan. Terus kita bikin open studio, workshop untuk bikin karya-karya cetak grafis. Kita ngundang juga teman-teman untuk workshop misalnya kalo ada teknik cetak grafis yang baru. Jadi lebih seperti open studio untuk cetak grafis. Komunitas ini malah belum pernah pameran… Kita lebih sibuk ngurusin orang lain, ya workshop itu…Baru akan pameran bulan April ini…

ES: Sekarang kamu gak cuma bikin grafis, gimana teman-teman di komunitas…
T: Yaa, gak masalah. Kami membuka diri utuk belajar ilmu yang lainnya juga..

ES: Jadi, buat kamu apa yang seru di grafis, instalasi, atau juga lukisan…
T: Ya, mediumnya beda-beda… Dulu, aku masuk ISI pilihan pertamaku itu Grafis. Padahal banyak temen yang pilh Diskom (Desain Komunikasi Visual) atau Lukis. Aku pilih Grafis, karena soal tekniknya. Yang aku rasain itu saat kita mencetak, kita deg-degan, hasilnya gimana… Ada surprise di grafis itu… Pas dibuka: Wuiiiih, jebule hasile ngene… Banyak hasilnya yang gak kita duga. Lukisan, gak gitu. Cuma beberapa kali aku bikin lukisan, mau coba…

ES: Jadi, mengerjakan karya grafis itu buat kamu masih yang utama ya?
T: Iyaaa… Menurutku, itu seperti kerja di laboratorium… Cari ide, bersihin plat cetak, setelah itu harus lewat proses ini-itu, cek kelembaban, harus serba bersih. Aku seneng dengan proses itu… menjalaninya asyik. Nanti kalo jadi, terus dilihat… Wah ada efek gini, gitu (secara visual). Sejak dulu, diberitahu kawan bahwa grafis itu begini, banyak urusan teknis begini-begitu. Aku justeru tertarik. Aku sendiri sih lebih suka dengan teknik cetak dalam, karena aku bisa eksplorasi garis dengan teknik ini.

ES: Garis itu kekuatan utama di dalam karya-karya cetak grafis kamu.
T: Iya, garis itu… Aku suka dengan garis itu…

ES: Untuk pameran kali ini, ada grafis ada instalasi. Penghubungnya justeru tema ya? Soal pengalaman kamu jadi ibu dan anakmu, Blora..
T: Ya, Awalnya untuk karya 3-dimensi aku udah sering bikin yang kecil-kecil… dan aku masi ingin belajar teknis dan kemungkinan kenungkinan teknis yang lain untuk mewujudkan karyaku…

ES: Ya, menurutku pameran kali ini justeru temanya itu yang menarik. Dulu pernah aku diskusi soal perempuan perupa. Ada soal menurutku… “Kan mudah aja soal label “perempuan perupa itu”, tapi gimana soal petanyaan “apa yang perempuan dalam karyanya”, misalnya… Karya-karya kamu sekarang ini adalah contoh jelas gimana karya sepenuhnya menghadirkan pengalaman yang khas prempuan: melahirkan, misalnya… Karya Teddy yang baru kan ada juga kan soal Blora, tapi kan ada jarak di situ… itu Blora yang “dilihat Teddy”, sedang kamu Blora pada karyamu masih jadi Blora yang jadi bagian dari tubuhmu, eksistensimu…
T: Ya, emang beda karyaku soal Blora dengan karya Teddy… Hehehehe…
(Lantas Blora yang baru bangun, merangkak masuk ke ruang tempat kami sedang ngobrol… Sekarang dia sedang sering meniru gerak orang sedang menelepon dengan hp, menempelkan tangan ke telinga.) Ya, beda… Pengalaman Teddy dengan Blora ya sekitar menggendong Blora… Beda… (Lantas Tere mulai sibuk main dengan Blora yang ikut sibuk di antara wawancara kami)

ES: Oke… Selesai pameran ini, kamu akan pameran juga di Kuala Lumpur. Masih dengan tema seputar kamu sebagai ibu dan anakmu, Blora?
T: Ya, masih lanjutan dari yang sekarang ini…dan tidak menutup kemungkinan untuk membuat karya dengan mengangkat permasalahan disekitar kita seperti hubungan dengan keluarga, teman dan lingkungan social lainnya…

ES: Jadi, untuk smentara ini tema soal jadi ibu, melahirkan, keluarga, anak masih sangat penting ya..
T: Yaaa… karena ini yang masih aku hadapi setiap hari… Nanti kalo di Kuala Lumpur, kan masih ada waktu, aku mau bikin Blora menari-nari… Jadi seperti hiasan kue taart itu lho… Dia menjelang 1 tahun.

ES: Untuk karya-karya ini, kamu dibantu sejumlah artisan. Kamu menyiapkan sketsa-sketsanya aja ya…
T: Iyaaa, bikin sketsa, rencana, menjelaskan konsepnya kepada artisan, setelah itu bikin modelling… Kalo aku buat sendiri semua, meski dulu pernah belajar, waah… Waktunya repot banget…

ES: Dengan karya-karya yang temanya begitu langsung berkaitan ama pengalaman pribadi seperti sekarang ini, apa ini upaya kamu untuk berbagi pengalaman ini…
T: Sebenarnya aku mau sharing aja, sih… Dan juga, aku punya kenanganku sebelumnya… Aku pernah menyaksikan temen-temenku yang sampai mutusin menggugurkan kandungan, dan aku tahu. Ada tiga yang aku tahu betul. Itu termasuk pengalaman yang menghantui aku… Gila! Terus, sampai aku sendiri yang hamil. Aku mikir, aku dah selesai kuliah. Ngapain lagi. Juga, aku tahu, ada banyak orang yang malah gak bisa punya anak meskipun pengen… Jadi, aku putusin tetep hamil dan melahirkan. Aku terima Blora sebagai pemberian (Tuhan) buatku….

Ada tiga orang temen deketku yang punya pengalaman menggugurkan kandungan. Dan aku menyaksikan semua itu… Kesakitannya, sampai keluarnya gimana… Waaaaah! Ada yang gila banget… Setelah hopeless banget, temenku itu punya temen yang dokter hewan, lantas minta disuntik (obat untuk membantu kontraksi) yang untuk sapi melahirkan. Aaaah… aku ‘kan gimana? Sediiiih sekali! Waduh, aku nyaksiin semua…. Keluar (janin) di lantai kamar mandi, lantas diambill, masukin kotak. Aduuuuuh… Lama sekali aku trauma… Yang lain lagi, temenku mau menggugurkan, dan ke dukun. Walaaah… Nah, tapi, bagusnya, sampai sekarang anaknya itu masih hidup. Sudah gede, sehat dan cantiiiik lagi…(Tere masih melanjutkan ceritanya, panjang lebar dan rinci soal betapa mengerikan apa yang pernah dilalui beberapa teman dekatnya yang mencoba menggugurkan kandungan.)

Makanya, saat mau ngelahirin dia itu (menunjuk Blora yang ada di pangkuan saya), aku stress minta ampun… Dia belum keluar, sudah sembilan bulan 10 hari… Bahkan lebih satu minggu. Dia gak keluar-keluar…. Ke Rumah Sakit, dibantu obat, dipacu untuk bisa (kontraksi)… Sehari-semalam…. Waaaah itu, gimana, ya…? Sehari-semalam… Kesakitan. Aku masih terpikir untuk makan… Aku harus makan, untuk energi melahirkan dia (Blora).

Akhirnya dia keluar juga. 3,4 kg, besar juga… Waaah, rasa senangnya itu… Dia sudah lahir, sehat, bagus, (anggota tubuhNya) lengkap. Senang sekali. Wah, sampai-sampai dijahit saja aku gak ngerasa sakit apapun… Senang sekali… Ya, Blora… (Berbicara pada Blora, yang memperhatikan kesibukan ibunya cerita, seperti mau menyimak semua cerita itu).
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[1]

English

By Enin Supriyanto

Confessions(of the artist as a young mom)

About a young mom, a baby, several drawings, and installations

I first knew Theresia Agustina Sitompul, usually known as ‘Tere’, several years ago, when she was still going out with (her husband today) S. Teddy D. At the time, end 2006, I met S. Teddy D. quite often to prepare his solo exhibition, which then took place in the beginning of 2007 (S. Teddy D, “Pictura”, Nadi Gallery, Jakarta).

It was thanks to the preparation process that I started to know Tere, who was cheerful, nimble, and full of attention at work. In those days, she practically assisted S. Teddy D and me in preparing the “Pictura” exhibition. It turned out that she had prepared and arranged the various data and storage for S. Teddy D’s works, and she even helped manage the work schedule and activities for the exhibition.

Meanwhile, S. Teddy D himself, although he had a sharp memory for the details of his works that were scattered or stored somewhere, often had no desire to gather or simply put all the necessary records about his works in order.

My acquaintance with Tere continued. I asked her help to prepare the exhibition of “FETISH Object Art Project” (Biasa Artspace, Bali, July 2007). Once again, I had the opportunity to “make use of” Tere’s cheerfulness, energy, and thoroughness. Amid the hustle and bustle of our acquaintanceship, which had not been to long, I rarely paid attention to Tere’s works. At the time, I was aware of only one thing: that she had a print art work group, Studio Grafis Minggiran (Minggiran Print Studio).

It was only later—because almost every time I went to Yogya, I set aside some time to visit S. Teddy D’s place (or, to be precise, Tere’s boarding house, where Teddy also stayed)—that I started to notice a number of print works that she made. Most of them were etches and drypoint works, with female figures that looked small and fragile, in vague colors on the paper surface.

The lines, however, looked strong and rhythmical. And there were always strong feminine touches, somehow, that immediately brought my mind to my daughter, my wife, or my female friends in my university years. But that was all I remembered about Tere and her works.

The next thing I knew was that Tere really did get married to S. Teddy D (2007). Less than a year later, her first child was born, a curly-haired female baby, who was given a cool name: Blora Frida Margareta (May 10, 2008). On some occasions, I visited their home in Yogya again. They are still busily working. And in the house where they now live, their friends still hang out—artists or non-artists—visiting them every day. In those occasions, I still see the cheerful, nimble, and busy Tere (taking care of things, for Teddy’s exhibitions and works), while also taking care of Blora the baby and creating her own works.

Some of her works, as mock-ups or half-finished, lie around in the living room or work space. I then realized that it was not only she who changed from a young artist to a young mom; her works changed as well. Or, to be more precise, the transformation to become a mother left a strong mark in her latest works.

Her works grew to a variety of media. No longer restricted to merely drawings and print works, today Tere also creates a number of installation works. And this time she no longer expressed the silent emotion of a woman seeking a hiding place in her works. A number of her installation works precisely present, in almost direct ways, her experience as a mother and her various new experiences in relation to the apple of her eye, Blora. In my view, such element is truly rarely found among the various Indonesian contemporary art works, even if we relate it directly to the gender of the creators: female artists.

Some might have read about this in a review written by Sanento Yuliman, which I think is still relevant to the current situation in our world of art today. In his review—written almost twenty years ago, on the works displayed in a joint exhibition “Nuansa Indonesia” (Indonesian Nuances) by a group of female artists at Taman Ismail Marzuki (TIM), Jakarta, at the end of 1987—he brought forward one matter that often eluded our attention when we talked about the relationship of a work of art and its artist, who was (not coincidentally) a woman.

This is how he put it: “In this exhibition, it is not easy to say what exactly is characteristically female—in their works—aside from the fact that the artists are female. On the contrary, the dominance of paintings, the small portion that ceramic works occupies, the absence of textile works, and non-existence of works of art from a genre never touched by males, such as embroidery—betray the shadow of the dominant art thinking of the day: male thinking.” (“Nuansa Putri vs. Kuasa Lelaki” [Female Nuances vs. Male Dominance], 1987, republished posthumously in Sanento Yuliman, Dua Seni Rupa [Two Arts], 2001).

Two years later, naturally the condition has more or less changed. There are quite a lot of prominent female artists in Indonesia who successfully present female issues in their works. We must also keep in mind that the dearth of female issues in works of art is not a problem found only in the Indonesian art realm.

In the United States—a place where feminism ideas and movement have been a familiar feature since late sixties—the representation of typically female issues in works of art still constitutes an on-going problem. At least until mid-eighties—close to the time of the exhibition of “Nuansa Indonesia” which Sanento Yuliman reviewed—this distinct issue still constituted a strategic matter to be discussed within the discourse and practices of the contemporary art in the US.

Take a look at “The Birth Project” (1980), for example. It was an art project initiated and managed by the great female artist, Judy Chicago. The project clearly present the “typically female” issues in one go: the matter of giving birth as well as knitting and embroidery. The project, furthermore, had a participatory dimension as it involved scores of women in a series of continuous workshops and exhibition that went across state boundaries.

Chicago specifically state one of the reasons why the interesting art project had been born: because prior to it, the problem and experience of women’s giving birth had never been presented in works of art. (In her explanation on the project, she wrote: “Prior to the Birth Project, few images of birth existed in Western art, a puzzling omission as birth is a central focus of many women’s lives and a universal experience of all humanity – as everyone is born.

Seeking to fill this void, Judy Chicago created multiple images of birth to be realized through needlework, a visually rich medium which has been ignored or trivialized by the mainstream art community.” Some of the documentation and explanation on the project can be seen on: http://www.throughtheflower.org)

It seems as if the problem that Sanento Yuliman talked about was revealed in that account. Several years later, I attentively read yet another review, this time by Astri Wright, about Indonesian female artists, as well as the problem of “giving birth” as the chosen theme for works of art.

On this latter issue, which is “distinctively female,” Astri Wright observed and noted how radical and intriguing the achievement of Kartika Affandi had been, especially in two of her paintings, The Moment of Beginning (1981) and Rebirth (also in 1981). Both works clearly presented the image of “giving birth” as a point of reference as well as a metaphor for the artist’s personal experience who was also a woman who had struggled with a myriad bitter facts of life to discover her self. (Astri Wright, Undermining the Order of The Javanese Universe, The self-portraits of Kartika Affandi-Köberl, Art Asia Pacific, Vol. 1/ no. 3, 1994).

This is thus an undeniable fact: that giving birth is a corporeal, mental, and social experience that only women could undergo and understand. It is this “distinctively female” matter that is present in Tere’s art works in her solo exhibition today. Aside from the issue of the distinct theme, another dimension is immediately present there: the autobiographical dimension.

Whether we admit it or not, giving birth and nurturing a child indeed constitute such an immediate and personal experience. On the one hand, it seems like a natural thing, but on the other hand, it is also something that one must rationally decide and choose, which would then dramatically change someone’s life (i.e. a woman’s).

With women, many things changed immediately, too, as they give birth to a child. What would be transformed is not only her body, but also her social relations, her daily routine, and even a number of things that are deeply internal: her thoughts, hopes, and dreams (of her child’s future rather than her own).

That is why, to me, it is not entirely enough to depend solely on aesthetic considerations (to those who still believe deeply in those matters) as we stand face to face with works like the ones we have in this exhibition today. The problem of life experience, the autobiographical quality, must also be given due consideration.

The variety of issues I explained above are eventually merged in the title of this exhibition: “Confession (of an Artist as a Young Mom).” I am sure you can guess where I picked the elements of that title. First, I took “Confessions” from the title of the autobiographical work by St. Augustine, the first—and also one of the most captivating—of its kind in the treasure of Western literary works.

By borrowing the title, there is an element of puckishness on my part to say that the confessions of a female artist and a mother who talks about and shares with the audience her experience of motherhood also deserves to be treated as an admission of spiritual experience like the one that a saint goes through.

The end part of the title, “An Artist as a Young Mom” is taken from a yet another kind of autobiographical book, by the eminent author James Joyce: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This title is so famous that it is often taken and used for the title for other writing, films, etc. (One of them is the book by Goenawan Mohamad, Potret Seorang Penyair Muda sebagai Si Malin Kundang [Portrait of a Young Poet as Malin Kundang], 1971, 1993.) This part is also due to my continued puckishness. I invited Tere to treat herself—thoroughly, with her status as a mother—as the leading role in this exhibition.

To complement the confessional and autobiographical character in the displayed works this time, I include here parts of Tere’s “confessions” that I have garnered in an interview session:

Enin Supriyanto (ES): Tere… when did you enroll in the Indonesian Arts Institute?
Theresia Agustina Sitompul (T): 1999
ES: And finished it, graduated, in what year?
T: 2007

ES: You took your time, didn’t you?
T: Tee hee… Well, better than not finishing it… hahahaha!

ES: When did you get married?
T: When was it? 2007

ES: I see. You just finished your school, graduated, and then you got married, is that it?
T: Tee hee… Yep. Graduated… then impregnated. Hahaha!

ES: When was Blora, your daughter, born? A year later?
T: No, less than a year. I got pregnant first before I got married… Blora was born on May 10, 2008.

ES: So she’s now ten months, isn’t she?
T: Yep, ten months…

ES: So, after Blora was born, you take care of the baby and also started to create works of art, too, didn’t you?
T: Yes. But, actually, I was still busy with the works when I was pregnant.

ES: Since then, your pregnancy, and your child, have become an important feature in your works…
T: Yes, child, family matters…

ES: But the distinctive one is the experience of motherhood, isn’t it… including the experience of giving birth?
T: Gee. Yes. That was scary. I mean, I had to be prepared, mentally.

ES: There was no turning back…
T: Naturally. Whatever it is, it must be dealt with, whatever might happen… I had this fear: What would happen to my child later? She had not been born, was still in my womb, but I had thought far ahead. What would happen as she is born? After she was born, how do I raise her? I see my husband (S. Teddy D), he’s like that, and how do I raise my child later. My little family is like this… Well, those issues, I think about them all the time…

ES: But it is also those issues to keep on creating works, isn’t it?
T: Yes… One of the works (for this exhibition), is a sculpture of Blora, from when she is little to later when she grows up… and bigger… And how I raise her later. Because I always have this question: can I take care of her? It’s still true today. I sometime wonder: Am I wrong? There is such fear… How do I become a good mother? I’ve no idea… This, what I’m doing (for Blora and family), is it good?

ES: There is also an installation work that used as its basis your experience of giving birth to her…
T: Yes, it’s about giving birth. There’s this red part, the path that the baby uses to get out, there is blood… and the place where you put your legs… Probably those are enough, I don’t have to add legs wide apart. The baby moves, from her head, she gets out, slides out, goes left and right, then there are her feet at the bottom. Then she starts to crawl. She grows…

ES: And then there’s one with Blora in a post box…
T: That’s also my personal experience, with my own family. When I chose to study at the ISI [Indonesian Arts Institute], no one agreed. I sent letters, I asked my parents to send me letters. Even as I graduated, my parents didn’t come. I don’t want to be like that with my child (later). That’s why I entitle it: I miss your letter, Mom.
(Then, in Javanese, with a strong Surabayan/East Java accent, Tere continued her story.)
Why don’t they ask me, what I have been doing in Yogya… I want to be like that with my child. And, well, people rarely send letters nowadays. There are text messages or others. It’s easier. But, actually, letters are important, too.

ES: I’ve seen one of your works, probably in the exhibition at Syang (Magelang, Central Java), presenting a many-armed woman. What was the title? Can you tell me about it?
T: That… the title is: Me as an Artist, Me as Housekeeper, Me as Mother, Me as Christian, Me as a Secretary, Me as a Traveler… So there’s a depiction of me with a print roller, then with a baby, with a bible, with a mobile phone, with a telescope… That’s not only being a traveler, voyaging with a telescope… It’s like finding out about something, searching for knowledge. I was actually hoping, what if I had many hands, I would be able to work simultaneously, all would be done. But well… I only have two of them. Tee hee…

ES: So, after you got married and after Blora was born, the complexity of your life was immediately multiplied. Perhaps you didn’t imagine it before?
T: Yes. Three months after she was born, that was really difficult. I had to adapt with so many things, with my child, with my husband, Teddy. The first month I cried a lot. I also had this fear: What if my child dies? That went so far… I was so afraid. Because I felt I was alone in this. Teddy, he didn’t feel as “close” to the baby. Perhaps for him it was like, “What is this thing?” For him, it was like suddenly there. Meanwhile, for me, she had been a part of my body, my life, for nine months. The first month was truly difficult. I cried all the time.

ES: Tell me, do you have the work that for the first time is directly related to the experience of being pregnant?
T: When I was pregnant, I made a drawing, depicting a few people, children figures at the front with me at the back, holding and protecting them. That’s my work. There are also a few prints. To express the various feelings I had. They were not specifically about my feelings about my child.

ES: Today, seeing your work in the form of coins, I presume you have even thought about the education for your child…
T: Yes. Well, Teddy and I are artists. Our life depends on painting, selling our works. While education is increasingly more expensive. What will happen to my child? I want her to study well, in a good school. When I look at the kids on the street, I think: What do I do? What will happen to my child? If she doesn’t go to school and goes begging on the street… Gosh… Then I thought of making an artwork to support education. What I want is, if the work is sold, half of the proceed will be donated for educational purposes, probably through one of those donation programs. This is like an on-going project of sorts. I will sell the coins individually, but it will have an exchange rate. I plan to make certificates for those who buy the coins. I saw a banner the other day, saying “small changes cannot give them education.” But I made coins, which are identical with small changes. I thought, small changes or coins will be meaningful if someone buys them. Tee hee…

ES: I also noticed that there are some references of sorts to Christian themes in your works. Not many, but they’re there. For example the work that you submitted for the REFRESH exhibition (Singapore, 2008). The figure you made, it was like a representation of your self…
T: Tee hee… Yes, sacrificing my self. I suddenly felt like making it, using the cross.

ES: You did grow up in a Christian family, didn’t you?
T: Indeed. Very pious. One of my siblings even becomes a priest. Now my mother in law is also very pious. She often sends me text messages: “Good morning. Good Sunday. Have you gone to church?” Tee hee… Sometimes it’s rather annoying. The thing is, it makes me feel like I’m such a renegade. Oh, well. Probably they just want to be helpful.

But anyway, I’m grateful with what I have now, with my child, Blora… I’m so grateful. It’s not like the first month. At the time, I was so depressed. It was like my time and energy were spent mostly for babies. I was tired. And certainly traumatized, too. For some time after Blora’s birth, I was still afraid to have sex. “What if I get pregnant, have another baby, give birth again, in pain again!” They told me to use contraception, but I’m scared. Something will be inserted in there (into the vagina). I’m so scared it would hurt. Fortunately, Teddy can understand my fear.

ES: To return to the art works… I think we very rarely see works that present the issue about the experience between a mother and a child so clearly and strongly, talking about the corporeal experience of the mother or the woman herself. What we commonly see are the representations of the idealized or romanticized mother-child relationship that often is made by male artists. With you, the issues became concrete; this is about the body that gives birth.
T: Well, yes. It’s about my body, and something “obligatory.” Something that I must go through.

ES: Are there works by other female artists that have perhaps inspired you, or those you found as strongly relate such matters?
T: Nothing particular… but if it’s about techniques, presentation… although I don’t know much about this artist, I really like Kiki Smith’s work.
(TIME magazine, 8 May 2006, presented 100 individuals they considered as the most influential persons thanks to their achievements in a variety of fields, including art. Kiki Smith is one of these individuals. Chuck Close, an eminent American artist, wrote about Kiki Smith in that magazine. He wrote this about his colleague: In myriad materials such as glass, fiber and beads (some associated more with amateurs and craft-show practitioners than with professional artists), she has embraced a dizzyingly diverse vocabulary of the demoted, debased and despised—and she makes you like it. (…) She has a real connectedness, in my opinion, to what used to be called women’s work—quilting, crocheting, knitting—activities in which small units go together to make bigger pieces).

Visually, I like her works, that’s it. And she’s made quite a lot of prints. For me, her works clearly convey the theme that she wants to address.

ES: Now you’re settled and sure that you’d keep on working as an artist, while taking care of Blora and your little family…
T: Indeeeeed! Well, I’m a mother, an artist. It’s this way, see. I saw how several female friends, artists, who have given birth, stopped working until the child is older. I don’t want to be like that myself. The child is not an obstruction to working. She’s precisely the source of my spirit to create. I don’t use her as an excuse: “Gee, I’m too busy working, taking care of my child… I don’t have time to draw or work…” I don’t want to be like that. Although I do sometimes think “Gee, I’m so tired taking care of my child, I want to draw, but, gosh, I’m sooooo tired…” Sometimes I think that way. But I reject it. I fight it. Today, Blora is ten month old; I’m still struggling how to manage it all: family matters, work, how I set aside some time to do everything.

ES: Meanwhile Teddy, or other male artists, probably only rarely have to deal with such issues and challenges. Or perhaps none of them ever have to?
T: Indeed. The other day, we formed a group, we chatted. Mella Jaarsma, Arahmaiani, and other (female) artists gathered at Cemeti. We chatted about why it was that it was nicer to hold presentations or discussions with fellow female artists. With male artists, my husband for example, their comments, and the issue they view, are far different. Teddy is an artist, too, and my senior. When he comments, it’s like this: “You’d better do this, do that…” That’s also a problem for me. I think sometimes, is it my idea that’s right, or his ideas? It’s so confusing.

ES: What about the fellow female artists?
T: They just ask me things, we discuss. It’s nice. I also have a plan to present my works and exhibition, sharing ideas with them. Through these chats, I found out that many (female artist) friends also have the same problems. The husband is also an artist, and they have children…

ES: What about the preparation for the exhibition this time? Have you found a comfortable pattern to take care of family matters while also working?
T: I’m still figuring that one out. There was a time when I decided to work at home, here, so that I could be close to my child. But I couldn’t. When I was working, I heard her playing around, screaming, then I wanted to know what she was up to. So today, every day, for a few hours, I go to my studio [in Minggiran, around ten to fifteen minutes motorbike ride from Tere and Teddy house], and I work there. I already have a nanny I can trust. For four hours I work in the studio. Then I return home, meet her, play with her, feed her. I was creating print works at home. I just started working, but then Blora woke up, crying. Gee… it was quite a handful. I cleaned up quickly, washed my hands etcetera, then took care of her. Really hectic. When I was done, I only started working for an hour, but she had already been awake, and cried again. Gosh! At the time she only drank my milk, she hasn’t begun eating whole food. Now I already have some friends who are willing to assist my print community in Minggiran, so they can also assist me in finishing my work. Well, I’m still figuring out how to manage it all (taking care of the baby and working).

ES: Lately you use a variety of media. There are prints, drawing, installation works. But you started with prints, didn’t you? When did you establish your community of print artists in Minggiran?
T: It was 2001. My friends and I established Studio Grafis Minggiran [Minggiran Print Studio]. Initially there were ten of us. Arya Panjalu was there, too. Today, only six are active [Nawang Seto, Danang Hadi (Tape), Denny Rahman, Rully Putra Adi, Petrus Priya Wicaksono, and Tere]. I’m the only woman. Tee hee…

ES: How did it begin? Have you been the only woman from the beginning?
T: Indeed. Tee hee. Since the beginning, I’ve been the only woman. In the beginning, we were just hanging out together, creating comics, cards, screen prints, selling T-shirts. That was during the Comic Week at the Vredeburg. A friend had a pedicab, so we took a lot of things (our screen-print works) to be sold at the Vredeburgh. Then we thought, why don’t we make a community of print artists? At the time, we often hung around a friend’s house in Minggiran. So the name became Studio Grafis Minggiran. In those days, Agung Leak Kurniawan had a press machine that he lent us. We had something, and we must be able to use it. So we made an open studio, held workshops to make print works. We invited people to workshop, for example when there is a new print technique. So it’s more like an open studio for prints. The community itself has never held any exhibition. We have been preoccupied with taking care of others, for example by holding those workshops. We’ll hold our own exhibition in April this year.

ES: Now you’re not only creating print works. How do your friends in the community reacted?
T: They’ve no problem with that. We’re open to learn about other things.

ES: What it is that attracts you to prints, installation, or paintings…?
T: Well, the medium is different… When I got enrolled at the ISI, my first choice was the print studio. Many friends chose the Visual Communication or Painting studios. I chose the Print studio because of the techniques. What I feel when we’re doing prints, we’re not sure how it would turn out. There’s this surprise element in print works. When we unveil the work, Wow, so this is how it turns out! There are many surprises. With paintings, it isn’t so. I only made several paintings, just to try it out.

ES: So it’s still prints that’s your main focus, isn’t it?
T: Indeed. I think it’s a bit like laboratory work. We look for ideas, we clean the plates, then we undergo this and that process, we check the moisture level, all have to be clean. I like that process. It’s fun. Then when we’re done, we see the result. There’s this visual effect… A friend had told me that it’s like this when you work with prints, there are so many technical matters. But I’m precisely interested in those techniques. I prefer intaglio prints, because the technique allows me to explore lines.

ES: The lines are your strength in those print works.
T: Yes, the lines. I like them.

ES: For this exhibition, we have print works and installation works. The connecting thread is the theme, isn’t it? It’s about your experience as you become a mother, and about your child, Blora.
T: Yes, I’ve often made small three-dimensional works. I still want to learn the technical matters and the other technical possibilities that would help me create the works…

ES: Yes, I think, it’s the theme that is intriguing for this exhibition. I had a discussion about female artists. There’s this thing, I think it’s easy to label someone as “female artist”—but what about the question of “what is so female about the works”? Your works that we see today are a clear example how the works thoroughly present typically female experiences, such as giving birth. Teddy also talked about Blora in some of his new works, but there’s still this distance. That’s the Blora that Teddy sees, while the Blora in your works is Blora who is still a part of your body, your existence…
T: Yes, they’re indeed different, my works about Blora and his works about her. Tee hee…
(Then Blora, who just woke up, crawled into the room where we were chatting. She mimicked someone talking on the mobile phone. She put her hand to her ear.)
Yes, they’re different. Teddy’s experience with Blora is limited to his holding her. That’s really different.
(Then Tere started to play with Blora, who became involved with our interview.)

ES: OK. After the exhibition, you’ll have another exhibition in Kuala Lumpur. Are you still going to talk about your experience as a mother and your child, Blora?
T: Yes, it’ll be a continuation of the theme we have today… and I’m open to making works with the issues that are present around us, such as the relationship with family members, with friends, and other social groups.

ES: So for now on the themes of motherhood, giving birth, family, and child are still important for you…
T: Indeed. This is what I go through every day. I still have time for Kuala Lumpur. I want to make a dancing Blora. It’ll be like a decoration on a cake, you know. She’ll be almost one year old.

ES: For these works, a number of artisans have assisted you. You just prepared the sketches, didn’t you…?
T: Yep. I made the sketches, planning, explained the concept to the artisans, then I went on with the modeling. If I made it myself, although I’ve learnt about it, gee… that would be too much, time wise.

ES: With your works, whose theme is directly related with your personal experience, is this an effort on your part to share your experience…?
T: Well, I actually just want to share… And, I also have my own memories. I’ve seen friends who decided to abort their pregnancy. I knew about it. There were three occasions that I was really aware of it. It’s such a haunting experience. It’s crazy! And then I got pregnant myself. I thought, I’ve finished my study. What else should I do? I also knew that many people couldn’t have children although they want them badly. So, I decided to keep my pregnancy and gave birth. I accepted Blora as a gift (from God) for me…

Three close friends of mine had abortions. I witnessed it all. I saw the pain, how the fetus was taken. Gosh! Someone was so desperate, it was crazy. After she became so hopeless, she had this friend who was a vet, and she asked this friend to inject her with a medicine used for cows to give birth (which would help her womb to contract). Gasp! What do I do? I was soooooo sad! I witnessed it all. The fetus went out, to the floor on the bathroom, then it was taken, put in a box… Gosh! I was traumatized. Then another friend wanted to abort her pregnancy and went to this medicine man. Gosh! But, the good thing is, the baby survived, and she is still alive today. She’s grown, healthy, and very beautiful…
(Tere continued her story, expansive and detailed about the dreadful things that some of her close friends had undergone as they tried to abort their pregnancy.)

That was why, when I was just about to give birth to her (Tere pointed at Blora, who was sitting on my lap), I was so stressed. She didn’t want to go out. It was already nine months and ten days. And then a week more. She just didn’t come out. I went to the hospital, they gave me medicines that would trigger the contraction. A whole day and night. Gosh, that was… how do I put it… I was in pain. But I thought to eat. I had to eat, to have the energy to give birth to her.

So she finally went out. 3.4 kg. Quite big. Oh the joy! She was born, healthy, well, all parts are there. It was such a joy. I was so happy that I didn’t feel anything when they stitched me. I was so glad. Wasn’t I, Blora?
(Tere went on to talk with Blora, who was watching her mom telling us stories. It was as if she wanted to pay attention to those stories.)

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Published: March 28, 2009





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